By: Mayor Andrew J. Ginther
The last two years have been a struggle in just about every sector, and the birth-to-five space, in particular, has suffered dramatically. While COVID-19 didn’t create these disparities, it laid bare the inequities facing women in the workforce – especially women of color.
Knowing the importance of child care and early education for a full and equitable recovery, we moved quickly to reinforce and grow these vital areas. In June 2020, through a collaboration with Franklin County, we provided almost $9 million in federal CARES funding to help stabilize providers. But just getting back to the old “normal” was not acceptable.
So, that same month, we created the Recovery and Resiliency Committee and charged it to “… provide advice and counsel on how the city, public sector, non-profit and private sector partners can support an inclusive economic recovery strategy after the COVID-19 recovery.” The committee met and deliberated for 12 months. They heard from the community, spoke with experts, examined trends and data, and made recommendations that were both strategic and equitable. Their final report – a blueprint not just for a recovery but a resurgence – was released in November.
Due to the importance of child care and early learning on our economic and human services recovery, 11 of the 37 report recommendations focus on strengthening this industry, including:
Significant signing bonuses for new child care teachers – so that empty classrooms can be filled, parents and families can return to work, and teachers can feel better appreciated and supported.
Retention bonuses for existing child care teachers – to honor and support this workforce of mostly women who worked tirelessly and bravely throughout the pandemic.
A credentialing program for child care teachers – to help them become better educators and to help providers increase the quality of their programming.
A “Worthy Work” public relations campaign – to attract new teachers to the industry and applaud existing teachers for their selfless work and dedication.
Provider incentive awards – to help providers both growth their programs and improve their quality.
A Staffed Family Child Care Network – to assist family child care providers through operations and administrative supports so they can focus on what’s most important: improved quality and outcomes for their children.
A centralized recruiting hub – to provide high-quality “work-ready” teachers and staff to all child care providers that need them.
The Child Care Administrator Empowerment Program – to provide training, small group courses, and individualized coaching tailored specifically for child care providers.
Affordability scholarships – to support working families who make too much to qualify for child care subsidies yet struggle to pay the high cost of tuition.
A commitment to transform the child care business model – with a specific emphasis on employee wages and insurance benefits.
Urging the State of Ohio to increase the publicly funded child care threshold from current levels to 150- 200% of the federal poverty level.
Not waiting for the final report to be released, we proactively took action on three of these recommendations: providing $3.5 million for affordability scholarships for working families, and a centralized recruiting and credentialing program in collaboration with Columbus State Community College.
Make no mistake: This pandemic has tested our resiliency and our ability to recover. It has further widened existing gaps and challenged our progress. But how we respond to these challenges defines us – our city, our community and our residents. These recommendations, and the overarching collaboration, urgency and commitment that led to their creation, have charted a course for true systematic change.
Mayor Andrew J. Ginther is serving his second term as the 53rd mayor of the City of Columbus. Mayor Ginther previously served on Columbus City Council from 2007 to 2015, and served as president of Council from 2011 until assuming the Office of Mayor January 1, 2016.