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The True Cost of Underfunded Child Care

More than 82,000 early childhood professionals in Ohio provide young children with nurturing care and early learning experiences. A qualified early educator—one who knows how to create a dynamic learning environment—is at the center of a high-quality early learning experience. Critical economic and societal benefits of a quality early childhood are determined by the long-term development of a trained and supported workforce. Only the most effective educators and staff can ensure that the littlest learners in their care have the early experiences they need to succeed in school, graduate on time, and thrive later in life. Nonetheless, early educators earn an average wage of about $12 per hour—putting them toward the bottom of the wage-earning percentile across all occupations, while the average price of center-based infant child care in Ohio is nearly the same as the average annual tuition and fees at a public four-year college or university.

When early educators leave early learning environments, it disrupts the consistent, nurturing environment that developing children need to thrive. Employers are also left with the additional economic burden of constantly recruiting and training new staff members to ensure safe learning environments. By providing necessary supports for the well-being and financial stability of the early education workforce, retention rates increase, child outcomes improve, and the whole state benefits.

On this day without child care, we celebrate William Christmas, a doctoral student in Cleveland Ohio, who started his career in early childhood education, and a 2023 Groundwork Ohio Early Childhood Leadership Fellow. Investments in William, and all early childhood educators, are an investment in the economic strength and future success of Ohio.

By: William Christmas, M.Ed., Class of 2023 Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship, Community Advocate and Early Childhood Education Instructor

When I was eight-years old, my grandma bought a desk, chalkboard and chalk, and copy paper for me. I knew then that my dream job was being a teacher. I began my journey with Cuyahoga Community College, receiving my associate degree in early childhood education. This is where I met Linda Edwards, my student-teacher instructor. She told me that I was going to continue my collegiate journey until I got my doctorate degree. Fast forward to today and I am one semester away from receiving my doctorate degree in education administration. What’s funny is that I tried to argue with Linda and say to her I am not getting a doctorate, that it was too much schooling. It’s teachers like Linda who inspire students like me; when a teacher takes the time to build relationships with their students, they can then see them for themselves. As a teacher, I try to build relationships with my students because I don’t know what home life is like. I want to build an inclusive environment where my students feel safe and encouraged to continue to flourish in whatever they choose to do.

The child care industry is in crisis. Our whole system, beginning with early childhood education and continuing through the school years, is under assault. It is financially impossible for parents living in places with high rates of poverty to give their children access to high-quality child care because of the costs they would pay if there were no subsidies available.

In the grand scheme of things, what exactly does it entail? Children who do not have access to high-quality childcare will not be ready for the transition into a public school system, which places high expectations on students to achieve at or above grade level. The underlying knowledge and abilities that are necessary for children to be able to achieve these goals are provided by child care providers.

If we are serious about helping families lift themselves out of poverty, we face a very difficult dilemma about child care. I am urging our state legislature to support new investments that increase the accessibility and affordability of child care and support the child care workforce.

Thanks, William!

Ohio can continue to invest in William and the early education workforce by maintaining the following investments and policies that were included in the House Omnibus Bill:

  • Targeted Infant & Toddler Child Care Capacity Building in Child Care Deserts: A new investment of $30 million in state funds to increase the capacity of local communities, specifically Appalachian and communities with high infant mortality rates, to provide safe and developmentally appropriate child care for infants and toddlers.

  • Child Care Eligibility: An expansion of the state’s publicly funded child care program from 142% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 160%, which would result in more than 15,000 children and families gaining access to care.

  • Preschool: An additional $61 million per year in Early Childhood Education grants, estimated to expand preschool to an additional 15,250 3- and 4-year-olds under 200% FPL.

We ask the state legislature to restore this cut made by the House to the governor’s proposal:

  • Child Care Capacity: An investment of $150 million of state ARPA funds to provide child care scholarships to direct care professionals including early childhood professionals and to increase infant and toddler child care capacity in communities throughout the state.

Even with these targeted investments, too many children and their families will still be left out as we struggle to recruit and retain qualified professionals to support their needs. They are just the beginning of what is needed to fully address the child care crisis facing kids, parents, child care professionals, and Ohio businesses, but they are a vital step in the right direction.


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