Ohio ranks near the bottom in preschool funding compared to other states

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine emphasized the significance of child care and education in his recent State of the State address. However, a recent national report revealed that Ohio ranks among the lowest in preschool spending in the country.

The National Institute for Early Education Research’s annual “state of preschool” report highlighted disparities in access, quality, and funding for preschool education across the nation. Ohio’s position stood at 43rd in total reported spending on early education.

According to W. Steven Barnett, senior co-director and founder of NIEER at Rutgers University, many states have yet to commit to serving all children adequately. Even those that have made commitments often fall short. Increased funding per child is necessary to ensure providers can meet the minimum standards for a high-quality preschool program.

The report identified inadequate funding as a widespread challenge across states. However, there was positive feedback for Ohio’s recent efforts, including a $122 million increase in state-level funding over two years and a $250 rise in per-pupil funding, marking the first increase since 2009. Ohio ranked 36th in state-specific preschool spending, focusing on the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce’s publicly funded Early Childhood Education program for the 2022-2023 school year.

Following a reduction in spending for the 2022-2023 school year, Ohio saw a $268 decrease per child from the previous year. Although progress has been made, there is still significant work ahead to ensure access to adequately funded early learning opportunities for children’s development and parents’ livelihoods.

Ohio currently has 18,000 children enrolled in pre-K education, with 35% of school districts offering state-funded programs. Moreover, the federally funded Head Start program for 3 and 4-year-olds in the state has an enrollment of 24,649. Notably, the state does not provide contributions to the Head Start program for these age groups.

Despite a national rise in preschool enrollment for 4-year-olds and 3-year-olds, with an 11% increase in overall state expenditures compared to the previous year, many states have not yet reached their pre-pandemic enrollment levels. Ohio’s rankings for access to preschool programs were 36th for 4-year-olds and 26th for 3-year-olds.

Ohio’s performance in meeting benchmarks for preschool education fell short, with only half of the 10 benchmarks being achieved in the latest NIEER report. While the state excelled in areas such as early learning standards, curriculum support, and teacher training, it struggled to meet benchmarks in teacher and assistant teacher degrees, professional development, class size, and staff-to-child ratios.

The state requirements for pre-K teachers and assistant teachers in Ohio differ from the NIEER benchmarks, impacting the state’s overall performance. Additionally, maximum class sizes set by Ohio exceed NIEER recommendations, posing challenges in maintaining quality preschool education standards.

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