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Senate Budget Deals Devastating Blow to Ohio’s Child Care System, Undercuts Early Learning Workforce

Senate Budget Deals Devastating Blow to Ohio’s Child Care System, Undercuts Essential Early Learning Workforce

COLUMBUS, OH -- On Tuesday, the Ohio Senate released its substitute version of House Bill 110, the biennial state budget. In the substitute bill, the Ohio Senate effectively ends Step Up to Quality, Ohio’s 5-star Quality Rating and Improvement System. Additionally, the Senate bill imposes debilitating restrictions on federal emergency dollars designated to Ohio through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) and the American Rescue Plan, all designed to strengthen the early learning system and the early education workforce.

The Senate substitute bill comes on the heels of a new report by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, commissioned by Groundwork Ohio, which proves the tremendous value of quality child care. Public investment in quality child care generates a 10% yearly return on public investment, making it not only a great support for children and families but also a good return for Ohio taxpayers.

Groundwork Ohio Executive Director Shannon Jones issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s devastating proposal:

“The Senate’s decision to eliminate Step Up to Quality will create a two-tiered child care system of haves and have-nots, where low-income children are denied a fair shot at building a strong foundation for school and career success. Disparities in outcomes will grow even wider, resulting in fewer young adults prepared to enter the workforce.

"The Senate is walking away from the state’s commitment to quality early learning, throwing away years of progress and millions of dollars in private and local investment. Many of Ohio’s local communities have invested millions of dollars as a partner with the state to support its youngest learners and prepare its future workforce.

"While we welcome the Senate’s efforts to marginally address Ohio’s woefully low eligibility rate by increasing it to 142% of the Federal Poverty Level, expanding child care access at the expense of quality is entirely self-defeating and unacceptable. This proposal fails to give families the quality child care they need to work and the enriching early experiences that children need to succeed – all while undercutting the classroom teachers who are the unsung heroes of our fragile system.”

In addition to the University of Cincinnati study, two independent studies have validated the success of Ohio’s Step Up to Quality system, affirming that star-rated programs better prepare young children for kindergarten. By making Step Up to Quality voluntary, the Ohio Senate is undercutting the significant progress and investment that has been made in recent years to provide quality care and early education to Ohio’s youngest children.

Numerous studies have also shown that children who participate in high-quality early childhood programs are better prepared for kindergarten; are less likely to repeat a grade; are more likely to reach high school graduation and pursue college or vocational training programs; and are less likely to be dependent on government assistance later in life.

Here is what Ohio business leaders, child care providers, and parents have said about the importance of quality in child care:

“Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care program and Step Up to Quality are investments — investments in our children, our working families and Ohio’s future. We must adopt a long-term view, knowing we will reap the dividends of our investment for years to come.” –David Melin, Regional President of PNC Bank in Dayton, in prepared testimony to the Ohio Senate Health Committee

“Research shows that at-risk children who are in high-quality childcare and early education programs develop stronger learning skills and experience improved cognitive, language, and social development. Children require safe, stable, and nurturing relationships to reach their full potential in brain and body development, and that occurs in quality childcare settings. An investment in quality early care and education for Ohio’s children provides the strong foundation for a child’s chance at lifelong success." –Melissa Wervey Arnold, Chief Executive Officer of the Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

“All the data around early childhood education demonstrates how critical investments in quality child care during the early years of a child’s life equals better performance in school and stronger connections to future careers… Increased investment in high quality child care is a win for our families, our businesses, and Ohio’s economy.” –Stephanie Keinath, Vice President of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, in prepared testimony to the Ohio Senate Health Committee

“We believe all children deserve to be nurtured through high-quality education and that begins in the earliest years as young brains are being formed. Because this is such an important issue, it has been a top priority of United Way for the last twenty years.” –Mike Baker, Chief Strategy Officer at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, in prepared testimony to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.

“Families are being denied the chance to succeed at work and become self- sufficient because they can’t afford quality childcare. Achievement gaps widen year after year due to little to low quality early foundation.” –Dawn Blalock, Program Manager at Little Miracles Early Development Center, in prepared testimony to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.

“Children who have received a quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, avoid teen pregnancy, and go on to acquire a college education or become skilled in a trade. This boosts the economy and creates better citizens.” –Elizabeth Hibbs, Director of the Early Childhood Education Alliance, in prepared testimony to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.

“Young children in quality child care and early learning settings reap rewards that can last a lifetime from enhanced school readiness to reduced juvenile delinquency, from better health outcomes to higher graduation rates and lifetime earnings.” –Eric Karolak, CEO of Action for Children, in prepared testimony to the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.


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 and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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