Early care and education benefits the economy
Both gubernatorial candidates are to be saluted for acknowledging the importance of improving early care and education opportunities for Ohio's youngest children.
The candidates disagreed on how quickly Ohio's economy would be helped by starting to raise the educational level for all its citizens, but agreed that basic education must begin much earlier than five or six years of age. "This debate has been missing from Ohio's public policy landscape for far too long." said Lori McClung, Campaign Director for Groundwork. "Research, along with educational and health policies of neighboring states, demonstrates that a successful system of public education must begin before children report for their first day of school. This system benefits all Ohioans - children, working parents, and the economy."
Consider the early care and education industry consists of small businesses, supporting more than 57,000 full-time jobs. Investing in early care and education supports small businesses in Ohio. North Carolina's Smart Start program has added nearly $400 million to their economy through the creation of child care spaces.
Early care and education also benefits working parents. Providing children with early care and education allows parents to be more productive at work and miss fewer days. A 2004 Cornell University study estimates a $2.50 return for every $1 invested from reduced work absenteeism.
When health and behavioral health screening and treatment are added to a quality pre-school experience, the benefits to children, their parents and classmates grows exponentially. Numerous studies, including many available through the Groundwork web-site (www.groundworkohio.org), find early health diagnosis and treatment to be effective means of curbing disruptive classroom behavior as well as more serious problems later in life. Children with high-quality early care and education are 40% less likely to need special education or to be held back a grade. This translates into savings for the school district and benefits the K-12 system overall.
The effective approach combining health and learning opportunities for children is rapidly being embraced in other states. Pennsylvania and Kentucky have aggressive programs to extend physical and behavioral health screening and treatment to their youngest populations. They are joined by Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin in removing any income restrictions for their state pre-kindergarten programs. Further, no less than nine states require school districts to offer full-day kindergarten.
These and other programs for children in neighboring states are all considered in the Groundwork platform, which advocates for all of Ohio's youngest children and their families. That platform calls upon Ohio's next governor and legislature to:
? Expand behavioral health care access, treatment and support;
? Increase access to and utilization of physical health care for all children;
? Provide availability to all-day kindergarten state-wide; and,
? Grow the number of quality providers and appropriate spaces for quality learning programs for infants, toddlers and pre-kindergarteners.
Both candidates for governor are aware of this platform and the research that dictates it and both have shown interest in several sections of it. But interest must be turned to discussion and action if Ohio is going to begin addressing the needs of the state's youngest children.
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