This week, nearly 300 business leaders, child advocates, and early education experts from across the state convened at the Laying the Groundwork: Early Childhood Awareness and Education Summit to elevate the need for increased state investments in quality early learning to improve outcomes for Ohio's youngest, most at-risk kids.
“Forty million babies are born in our country every year and we know that their potential is unlimited,” shared keynote speaker Myra Jones-Taylor, Chief Policy Officer of ZERO TO THREE, during her address on Wednesday. “Babies are not born broken… we have broken systems. You are more likely to be poor if you are between the ages 0-3 than any other time in your life. Our policies must reflect this reality.”
In Ohio, we know that high concentrations of poverty and other factors like race and rural geography play a significant role in kids’ early learning and development. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of Ohio children do not start school ready to learn. Only 40% of kids demonstrate kindergarten readiness upon entering school—so it is not a surprise that only 43% of Ohio’s workforce has a degree or credential that qualifies them for available jobs in the state.
“I talk to business leaders every day. Do you know their number one issue? The people. They can’t hire enough people to support growth, as individuals that are applying for the open positions simply don’t have the technical or the social-emotional skills that are necessary for the job,” said David Melin, Dayton Regional President of PNC. “We can no longer accept the canned response that there is no more money in the budget for things like quality early learning. We must adopt a long-term view and know we will reap the dividends of our thoughtful, patient investments decades from now.”
Participants also enjoyed a panel of legislators (Senator Jay Hottinger, Senator Kenny Yuko, Representative Mark Romanchuk, and Representative Emilia Sykes) who shared their insights on investments in early education during the current budget process (check out the video here). During lunch, Groundwork presented A Step Above awards to Senator Stephanie Kunze, Senator Vernon Sykes, and Representative Stephanie Howse for their outstanding commitment to advancing policies and investments that support Ohio’s youngest and most vulnerable children. The inaugural Star Advocate Award was presented to Misti Norman, Owner and Director of Heavenly Kids Center for Learning.
After the program, summit attendees participated in meetings with more than 100 members of the Ohio General Assembly to advocate for increased investments in quality early learning to increase school readiness, improve the lifelong success of kids, and ensure long-term economic success for Ohio.
Thanks once again to our many generous sponsors who made this event possible, especially our featured Children's Champion Sponsor, PNC!
Share your passion for early education with Ohio legislators
With the FY 20-21 budget process in full swing, now is the time to communicate with your legislators about the importance of investing in quality early learning for Ohio's young children. Don't know where to start? Check out our advocacy toolkit for a step-by-step guide for meeting with your legislator, hosting a site visit, and more!
If you have additional questions about engaging in advocacy, contact our staff!
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