I’m Not Getting My Hopes Up
As soon as Ohio Governor Kasich’s proposed biennial budget “leaked” last week, I started hearing excited reports that early childhood education was slated to receive an increase of $180 million. This sounds like excellent news, doesn’t it?
But as the actual details have begun to emerge, let’s just say, I am not getting my hopes up. For one thing (a rather large one thing), school districts can use the entire amount of that early education funding in their kindergartens to third grades to boost the reading levels of students. While I am sure schools could use additional help in supporting children who are not reading at expected levels, why wait until students start school behind so we then have to put all those extra resources into remediation? The Governor said all the right things about the proven value of Pre-K, but gave local schools a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.
And there is another “but.” While 5,700 children are in Ohio’s public school early education classes, far more (86,000) children are in Ohio’s quality-rated community-based child care programs and Head Start centers. Ohio has done terrific work over the last two years aligning quality standards and curriculum between the schools where the 5,700 children attend and the community programs where 15 times that number of children receive their early learning experiences.
This potential new investment in “early childhood education” should be focused on the critical years before a child enters school. These new dollars could provide school districts with significant leverage to work with community-based child care programs that are preparing children to succeed in school.
We’ve come a long way with the work underway in Ohio stemming from the Early Learning Challenge Grant (part of Race to the Top). This budget proposal feels like a step backward to when folks incorrectly thought
- that learning begins only when children enter school and
- that only schools are capable of providing quality early childhood education.
It seems like an advocacy opportunity awaits us.