Opinion: Ohio cannot abandon kids who need child care
At Cincinnati Preschool Promise, our mission is to ensure that every Cincinnati child – regardless of their race, their family’s income, or the ZIP code they live in – has access to high-quality early education so that they are prepared for kindergarten and beyond. The importance of giving children who would not normally have access to high-quality early education a fair start cannot be understated. The budget proposal under consideration in the Statehouse would reverse this progress and betray the significant investment that has been made locally.
We know that children who start behind often stay behind and that educational gaps that emerge early widen year after year. Decades of research affirms that quality child care and preschool programs hold the promise to close these gaps by helping vulnerable children develop the educational, emotional and social skills necessary to succeed in school, career and life. Step Up To Quality has been vital to building a quality early education system in Ohio, providing low-income and minority children access to high-quality early learning programs that their parents otherwise could not afford.
Cincinnati Preschool Promise was created after Cincinnati taxpayers approved a 5-year multi-million-dollar levy to expand children’s access to high-quality preschool. The passage of this levy shows that our community both values high-quality early education and is willing to invest millions of dollars to be a partner with the state to advance Step Up To Quality. Now in our fourth year, Cincinnati Preschool Promise has provided tuition assistance to more than 4,000 children to attend high-quality preschool. Our community’s investment has produced astonishing results: Last year, 78.4% of preschoolers who attended high-quality preschools with tuition assistance from Cincinnati Preschool Promise entered kindergarten ready to learn.
All parents want the best for their children, and that includes early education. In a survey conducted by INNOVATIONS in Community Research and Program Evaluation, the top three reasons parents enrolled their children at a preschool were: preparation for kindergarten, a safe environment and the preschool is a 3-4-5 star rated provider. Dismantling Step Up To Quality would deny parents the ability to access the high-quality programs they want for their children.
The Senate’s proposal also jeopardizes local providers who, against all odds, continued to operate and maintain their small business through the pandemic. The number of providers participating in Step Up To Quality grew from one to 69 in just three years. These providers put in the hard work and investment necessary to achieve high-quality ratings; the state cannot abandon them at this critical juncture.
The ripple effects of eliminating Step Up To Quality will be felt for years to come. State legislators must do the right thing and “step up” to support quality child care in Ohio. We ask you to stay the course and revert to the House version of House Bill 110 as it relates to child care.
Chara Fisher Jackson is executive director and CEO of Cincinnati Preschool Promise.