Ohioans Testify on the Importance of Quality in Child Care Settings
Early Childhood Experts and Professionals Present Powerful Testimony on Why Ohio Must Invest in Quality Early Learning Opportunities
COLUMBUS, OH – Today, the Ohio Legislative Study Committee on Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care and Step Up To Quality Program heard testimony from early childhood professionals, experts, and community leaders on the importance of quality in Ohio’s child care programs. The testimonies presented a powerful case for why policymakers must double down on the state’s commitment to provide quality early learning opportunities to Ohio children, regardless of their race, family’s income, ZIP code, or disability.
Several early childhood professionals, experts, and community leaders submitted testimony for Wednesday’s hearing. Read the excerpts below to learn more about the essential role quality child care plays in supporting children, families, and communities:
Joy Bivens, Deputy County Administrator for Health and Human Services under the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.
"While Step Up to Quality is a powerful and vital component of our state’s early childhood strategy, it is also a two-generation workforce strategy in that it supports the workforce of today while building a healthy and capable workforce of tomorrow."
"The Step Up to Quality program has also helped us make progress in building equity within our childcare system, by beginning to acknowledge and compensate high quality care in publicly funded child care settings, especially those serving low-income communities and communities of color, in the same way as private pay providers. This approach begins to break down a system of have’s and have-not’s, where the quality of education and safety of our children is not determined by zip code or family income."
"As we look to this committee and system partners to continue improving the statewide Step Up to Quality program, Franklin County is committed to doing our part. We have invested over $4 million to date in training and support for child care providers seeking to be rated under Step Up to Quality. We are also evaluating additional investments of our American Rescue Plan discretionary funds to jump start additional childcare initiatives where pain points have emerged—particularly during the pandemic—while we consider long-term investments in sustainability. However, the state is the backbone for our child care system, and the time is now to invest in long-term structural improvements."
Julie Stone, Executive Director of the Ohio Head Start Association, Inc.
"We know from numerous studies that children who participate in high-quality care have higher IQ levels, greater economic success and lower incidences of obesity and chronic illness. Research also shows that quality care can help to close the achievement gap between poor and wealthy children."
"With the challenges faced by both families and providers, now, more than ever, is the time to commit to quality and to invest in our Early Childhood Workforce to ensure the ability of families with young children to work, and to support the workforce of tomorrow with school and life readiness."
"Head Start has a long and deep history of commitment to quality, and has a proven track record of achieving positive outcomes for Ohio’s children and families in greatest need."
John Ladd, Program Officer with Cuyahoga County’s Office of Early Childhood.
"In the absence of an independent and objective quality rating – or if such a system were rendered ineffective through inadequate funding or by being made fully optional – we would essentially be flying blind in our efforts to direct dollars into early childhood programs that are accountable for outcomes."
"Without [Step Up To Quality] to guide them, parents have no independent or unbiased source of information. While some parents have the ability and resources to research their childcare or preschool options -- and know what quality looks like -- most do not. Certainly, our most disadvantaged young parents rarely have the knowledge upon which to do an evaluation of quality when choosing where to send their child…a robust SUTQ program provides a critical resource in supporting social equity in early childhood program accessibility."
"It matters little to parents if a program is a federal, state or local effort. What they value, need and expect is quality and accessibility."
Vanessa Freytag, President & CEO of 4C for Children.
"We analyzed which programs in our region closed and what their [Step Up To Quality] ratings were…We found a clear correlation between high quality and the ability to stay in business. This really isn’t surprising – part of what programs learn in their SUTQ training and mentoring is good business practices, how to implement consistent processes, staff development and more."
"As brain science has illustrated the quality of teacher to child interactions positively or negatively impact our youngest learners. Therefore, as stewards of federal, state, and local dollars, it is imperative that we continue to create and provide nurturing quality learning environments for all children in Ohio."
"The recovery and rebuilding of child care is vital to our state. How we recover and rebuild will have a profound impact on both Ohio’s economy and the future of our communities. High quality child care must be the goal."
Teresa Kobelt, Director of the Office of Policy at OCALI.
"As this committee fulfills its statutory obligation to consider ‘issues regarding access to publicly funded child care and quality-rated early learning and development’, we want to ensure these 600,000 children with disabilities and their families are indeed a priority population and not an afterthought of this work."
"Recognize the critical role of child care providers in identifying children with disabilities and their families. Well-trained child care providers are key to screening and monitoring. They are versed in developmental milestones, understand how and where to make referrals, and know how to have difficult conversations with families."
"Early experiences that consist of healthy relationships and effective interventions influence lifelong outcomes. It is time to ensure that early childhood science, policy, and practice are integrated so that all Ohio’s children can live their best lives for their entire lives."
Holly Hankinson, Advocacy Director of the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Read the full testimony
"Ohio’s child care system is a critical component of our economy. It is essential to keep Ohio working by helping parents afford child care and ensuring more children in low-income families have access to high-quality care."
"Affordable access to child care is one component, but equally important is ensuring children receive quality care. Evidence continues to demonstrate that quality early childhood education is critical to the long term success of our kids. It is linked to higher outcomes later in life and more successful and productive adults. And ultimately, the future of Ohio workers."
Troy Hunter, Program Manager of the Ohio State University Nisonger Early Learning Program and Member of the Board of Directors for the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children.
"Step Up to Quality has an important role to play in increasing the inclusiveness of early childhood education throughout the state. Without incentives to quality, programs have little motivation to engage in developmental screening and monitoring. They have less compulsion to adapt, adjust, and accept the differing needs of children with delays or disabilities. Programs are less accountable to provide education and care to children that appear to be more challenging. There is little inclination to be inclusive."
"With what we know about the impact of quality early childhood experiences on positive outcomes for children with disabilities, quality care is not something we can afford to compromise on."
"There are many challenges currently facing our early childhood education system in Ohio including, staff recruitment and retention, affordability, and access…There is an evident need to a standard of quality within early childhood. Without a standard of quality, there is no protection for children, especially children with disabilities. It should not stop with quality education and care, an investment in early childhood education and care is an investment in inclusion."
"At a time when child care remains a major barrier to parents returning to the workforce and far too many Ohio children aren’t prepared for kindergarten, policymakers must invest in quality child care," said Shannon Jones, Groundwork Ohio’s President & CEO. "We know the research, we hear the demands of working families, and we see the impact quality programs have on young children. Quality means better outcomes for our children and grandchildren, which in turn means better outcomes for families, the workforce, and taxpayers."
In February, Groundwork Ohio shared testimonies offered to the study committee during last month’s hearing. Click here to read testimonies from the February hearing.
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Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families, and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio at www.groundworkohio.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.