For more than two decades, Ohio invested state dollars to expand access to early care and education (ECE) programs for low-income children. Initially offered as state-funded Head Start, a drop in funding from 2002 to 2004 ended with a new initiative which emerged in 2004, funded primarily by welfare dollars and known as the Early Learning Initiative (ELI). ELI offers school readiness experiences to low-income children and enables their parents to work.
BUILD Ohio was founded in 2002 as an independent collaboration of public and private partners dedicated to building a comprehensive system for Ohio’s children to prepare them for school.
A group called the Ohio Early Care and Education Campaign was formed in 2003 and established a strategic advocacy plan to address the educational, physical, and social and emotional needs of children ages birth through six. BUILD Ohio worked with a group of state department, business, and ECE leaders to release a statewide economic impact study in November, 2004.
In 1999 and 2000, a public-private partnership including 60 stakeholders developed initial criteria for a quality rating system, and in 2003, BUILD Ohio prioritized implementing the system.
Using Economic Messages
In recognition of the needs of local advocates in the state, which has many major cities, the release of the statewide report was followed by the production of county fact sheets for 25 top counties in the state. The fact sheets offered specific county data about the size and strength of the ECE system, the needs in that county, and how county leaders can strengthen local and state ECE systems.
The economic impact study steering committee realized County-level advocates would benefit from training in how the economic findings were derived and how they can be used in their advocacy efforts. The Insight Center, which produced the statewide report and the county fact sheets, conducted the training. Trainers explained the information on the fact sheets in detail, offered tips for reaching new audiences, helped local advocates understand the statewide effort, and offered strategies for using the information effectively. The training also helped to raise awareness about the economic importance of ECE to local providers.
The county fact sheets were released during statewide budget discussions. While this was useful for advocating to legislators, the timing did not work as well for encouraging local advocates to follow up with local leaders, since most advocates were focused on budget priorities at the state level.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
In 2006, the Early Care and Education Campaign became GroundWork Ohio, a statewide grassroots campaign to make voluntary early care and education available to all of Ohio’s children between birth and six. The campaign includes local coordinating committees and more than 2000 ECE providers who actively advocate for increased investment in ECE statewide. Some of the most significant outcomes include:
- All 132 members of the Ohio General Assembly attended at least one site visit with ECE providers in their districts. - Over 100 letters to the editor, op-eds, and/or articles were printed as a result of editorial board meetings and thousands of letters sent by ECE advocates.
In 2006, the state Board of Education formed the School Readiness Solutions Work Group, made up of business, education, government, and other leaders to develop policy changes that would lead to school readiness. Together, this work group developed a comprehensive agenda for school readiness in Ohio.
In 2005, a quality rating system was piloted in 9 counties, and expanded statewide in 2006.
In 2006, gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland committed to funding ECE. After his win, he restated that commitment in both his acceptance speech and his first State of the State address (page 7) In 2007, Governor Strickland signed an executive order to increase the child care provider market rate and to create an Early Childhood Cabinet and appoint a Director of Early Care and Education.
With Governor Strickland’s encouragement and support, the Ohio General Assembly approved an additional $270 million for ECE for fiscal year 08-09.
In 2008, the BUILD Ohio Board took action to be more efficient and reduce duplicative efforts by transferring BUILD Ohio’s activities to the new Early Childhood Cabinet [link to http://www.build-ohio.org/visionmission.html] formed through Governor Strickland’s Executive Order. A stakeholder advisory group continues to work closely with the cabinet to assure that voices from citizen-based organizations and advocacy groups across Ohio will continue to be heard. Ohio remains a Build state, and continues to contribute to the Build national movement that is redefining early childhood for children and families.
State and Legislative Actions
In March 2007, Governor Ted Strickland created, through executive order, an Early Childhood Cabinet including representation from six state agencies that currently oversee programs and services for young children and their families. The Early Childhood Cabinet unites these agencies around the common goal of promoting school readiness by setting and coordinating state policy and programs which serve Ohio’s children birth to age six.
The Ohio General Assembly approved an additional $270 million for early care and education for fiscal year 08-09.
The BUILD Ohio Board decided to transfer their activities to the new statewide Early Childhood Cabinet. However, Ohio remains a Build state, and will continue to contribute to the Build national movement that is redefining early childhood for children and families.
Community Solutions offers county-specific economic impact data in easy-to-use one-page fact sheets for 27 key Ohio counties.
GroundWork Ohio is a campaign to make voluntary early care and education available to all of Ohio's children aged birth to age six. The campaign is led by a steering committee of early care and education leaders, dedicated to building political will for the needs of young children.
Ohio Family and Children First is a partnership of government agencies and community organizations committed to improving the well-being of children and families.
Ohio's School Readiness Solutions Group of the State Board of Education is made up of leaders in early childhood, K-12 education, business, policy, and other sectors, who recognize that helping children achieve school readiness cannot be accomplished by a single agency or individual. It depends upon effective public-private partnerships. It demands strong leadership in both the public and private sectors. It requires a comprehensive, coordinated statewide system for school readiness.
Voice's for Ohio's Children is the non-partisan voice of Ohio's nearly 3 million children. With more than 100 collaborative partners, Voices impacts the changes in public policy that improve the health, safety, education, family stability and childcare of Ohio's children and their families.