In Ohio, 7,134 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs and 1 percent of 3-year-olds and 2 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in the state-funded Ohio Public Preschool Program. In addition to making investments in preschool for the upcoming school year, this past year, Ohio adopted comprehensive early learning standards. This means 100 percent of state’s pre-K programs now meet that quality benchmark established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,482.
- What the governor and other political leaders are saying: In his State of the State address in February 2014, Republican Gov. John Kasich mentioned his state’s adoption of early learning standards, saying, “To make sure Ohio is doing everything it can to help our youngest learners, we’re raising the standards for publicly funded early childhood education so that more children enter school ready to succeed.” He also noted, “at the same time, we’re going to make sure we’re spending those important dollars in ways that will make a difference. We believe in early childhood education. We’re going to promote it. We’re going to make it work in our state in an effective way.”
- What state leaders are saying: Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald in May 2014 announced his “Pre-K All the Way” plan, which calls for legislation to fund preschool for all Ohio 3- and 4-year-olds beginning in fall 2016 with full implementation by 2018. When announcing the plan, which could cost between $500 million and $600 million a year, FitzGerald said, “Any parent that can afford this is doing it for their child because they know it works, but we don’t want to be a state where some parents can afford the essentials and others are left behind.”
- Funding increases: During its previous legislative session, Ohio’s General Assembly increased funding for early childhood education through House Bill 59, which allocates an additional $12 million into the early childhood education program in fiscal year 2015. This will allow an additional 2,940 children to receive high-quality preschool during the 2014-15 school year. This comes after a $10 million increase during the 2013-14 school year, meaning the number of children served will have nearly doubled by 2014-15.
- Support from business leaders and in cities: Ohio business leaders in February 2014 used a recent University of Cincinnati Economics Center study to argue that universal pre-K in Cincinnati could save the city between $48 million to $69.1 million for each class of students that starts preschool at age 3 or 4. And in Cleveland, the school district, Cuyahoga County and more than 30 area agencies “joined in a partnership to more than double the number of Cleveland children attending a quality preschool within the next two years,” which the Plain Dealer editorialized is a “smart, well-coordinated educational effort” that the city “should fully embrace and support.” The Pre4Cle (preschool for Cleveland) program hopes to enroll 2,000 additional pre-K students in the next two years.