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Groundwork Ohio and Early Childhood Experts Provide Testimony on House Bill 33

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

As part of an Early Childhood Panel organized by Groundwork Ohio, statewide Early Childhood professionals, experts, and community leaders today testified in front of the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services for House Bill 33, Ohio’s FY 2024-2025 budget bill, regarding the state publicly funded child care program and preschool program.

The testimonies presented a powerful case for why policymakers should approve Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget proposal prioritizing the needs of Ohio’s children and families.

Several early childhood professionals, experts, and community leaders submitted testimony for Wednesday’s hearing. Read the excerpts below to learn more about why investing in supports for children and families is critical for the current and future workforce of Ohio.

Lynanne Gutierrez Chief Operating & Policy Officer

Groundwork Ohio

  • The lack of investment in Ohio’s young children and child care leaves Ohio’s young children behind and jeopardizes our future workforce. All of Ohio’s young children need early learning opportunities to ensure they can reach their full potential and a lifetime of success. According to the Ohio Department of Education, with only 38% of Ohio kindergartners entering the classroom ready to learn, and only 38% of Ohio students proficient in 8th grade math, workforce readiness is in jeopardy.

  • The lack of investment in Ohio’s young children and child care impacts Ohio’s ability to attract new business investment across the state. Right now, Ohio parents are forced to choose between taking on full-time employment because they cannot afford the high cost of child care. According to a ReadyNation study published last month, Ohio’s economy loses approximately $3.9 billion per year due to infant-toddler child care issues. Nationally, the annual cost of these issues is $122 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.

  • In Ohio, babies bear a disproportionate burden of our failing systems. Even where there have been investments in high quality birth-to-five interventions, disparities remain. The important goal of reaching a first birthday should be the floor, not the ceiling of success. Yet, upon birth, Ohio babies and their families are faced with insurmountable challenges:

    • There are almost twice as many cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome in Ohio than in the U.S. overall.

    • More young children experience maltreatment (child abuse or neglect under age 1) in Ohio than in most other states. The trend only gets worse for Ohio babies with a 20% increase from 2017 to 2020.

Mary Auch

Regional President

PNC Bank

  • Here in Ohio, over the past five years PNC has invested more than $10 million in early education grants, and our employees have spent more than 91,000 hours volunteering in early childhood education settings across the state. Funding is more critical than ever before as the COVID-19 pandemic and associated workforce crisis has disproportionately, negatively impacted child care and early education, while also highlighting child care’s vital role in a healthy economy.

  • As emergency federal funding continues to be utilized in the state, Ohio has an opportunity to invest in and prepare for its future. In his budget, Governor Mike DeWine is proposing increasing the eligibility threshold for subsidized child care to 160% of the Federal Poverty Level. This is a necessary step forward, to ensure parents can return to or remain in the workforce.

  • Our state and our businesses are in dire need of strategic state investment in early childhood education, as expanding access to publicly funded child care will help more people enter and remain in the workforce. Not only will it address the workforce challenges of today, but access to quality early childhood education is a two-generation workforce issue. Public policy to improve outcomes for our youngest Ohioans will also ensure the workforce of tomorrow is prepared to excel and contribute to a thriving economy in the future.

Robyn Lightcap

Executive Director

Preschool Promise, Dayton

  • I ask you to maintain the Governor’s proposed investments and invest slightly more in child care and preschool. Specifically, I am asking you to:

    • Invest $30 million from the General Revenue Fund to expand access to infant and toddler child care.

    • Invest an additional $46 million in the Ohio Department of Education’s Early Childhood Education preschool program to serve more children.

  • Our business and government leaders in Montgomery County have invested local private and public dollars in this early childhood work because they recognize that learning begins at birth. While we are incredibly fortunate to have local investment, it is nowhere close to enough to serve all young children and their families. This is why we need the state’s increased investment.

  • Child care teachers and leaders have an incredibly important job. They also have an incredibly difficult job. The hours are long – at least 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and sometimes longer, to accommodate the needs of working parents. There is no flexibility in hours. There is no option of working remotely. There is no checking your phone during the workday. Child care teachers have not just one child, but a room full of children to care for all at one time.

  • I support the Governor’s proposal to increase the eligibility for families to get help paying for child care – from 142% of the Federal Poverty Level to 160% of the Federal Poverty Level. This is essential. We simply must increase the eligibility for parents who want to work and are paid too little to afford child care.

Patti Gleason

Chief Operating Officer

Learning Grove

  • Ohio does not invest enough in child care to make it possible to provide quality care for publicly funded children, particularly for infants and toddlers. Learning Grove makes use of every available public and private funding source – local, state, and federal. We are lucky to have an excellent partner in Cincinnati Preschool Promise, and an electorate who has voted repeatedly to tax themselves for preschool. We are creative in how we layer and blend funds, and we maximize resources from other programs to support the health and well-being of our children and their families. But we have only been able to continue to provide child care because we raise private support for 10 – 20% of our budget each year.

  • When I started working with publicly funded child care in Ohio in the 1980s the emphasis was on low-cost babysitting so welfare-dependent mothers could work. In the 1990s the brain research confirmed what child care professionals already knew. 90% of the human brain is developed by age 5. Public investment in the earliest years of a child's life provides the biggest return on investment in both human and financial cost.

Suzanne Prescott

Early Childhood Programs Director

Butler County Educational Service Center

  • Our youngest children are experiencing trauma and there is a need for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, and more therapeutic classrooms like ours to that contribute to positive outcomes for children facing mental health challenges and promoting better mental health into adulthood.

  • Early Head Start deploys several delivery models to meet the needs of families, including center-based programming, family child care programs and evidence-based home visiting. Meeting families where they are prenatal to age three provides crucial support to pregnant moms and new parents as they deal with the challenges of raising babies and young children. These programs are an imperative and proven investment.

In addition to the Early Childhood Panel, three mothers who have previously taken part in the Family Action Network through Groundwork Ohio, testified in front of the committee.

Holly Unger from Utica, Ohio, is a biological mom of one, an adoptive mom of nine, and foster parent to 65 kids over the past 10 years. Holly’s testimony focuses on the crucial early interventions her children have received throughout the years from Head Start and Early Head Start.

“Head Start focuses on the parents and families just as much as they do the children they serve because they know it’s necessary to improve outcomes for kids. They gave us the tools to help make our children’s life so much more than we could have imagined for them, especially given their challenges early in life,” Holly said. “Head Start has been a source of stability, strength, and resources for our family as my husband and I fight for our kids to get them the help they need so that they can develop a strong foundation to serve them for the rest of their lives. I often ask myself, if we can’t plant that seed and water it for them to grow then who will?”

Lori Jarvis, a mother of four girls from Amelia, Ohio, is caught between depending on public benefits to feed and care for her children, and wanting to go back to work.

“With my daughters’ medical needs and the education of all four of my children, we have no choice other than for me to stay at home, always destined to remain in poverty… It doesn’t feel like ‘the American dream.’ It feels more like ‘the American struggle,’” Lori said. ““I ask you to support families in poverty by supporting a way up and out of it instead of contributing to systems that force us to choose reliance on public benefits. We ask you to act on this during this budget cycle by increasing state investment in infant-toddler child care capacity and preschool and increasing eligibility for child care programs.”

Rebekah Johnson, a mom of five from Oberlin, Ohio, is trying to go back to school to work in the critically understaffed field of early child care, but is running into problems finding care for her infant.

“I must find child care so that I can return to the workforce and provide for my family alongside my husband,” Rebecca said. “I want to be part of improving this system that is so critical for my family and I’m grateful for this opportunity after being pushed out of the workforce since the COVID pandemic.


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