Early Education Supporters Look For Answers

Nov 20, 2015

At the Tryed Stone New Beginning Church in Bond Hill, People's Platform attendees discussed preschool access in Ohio for children of all economic and racial backgrounds.
Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Backers of expanded access to early childhood education rallied in Bond Hill Thursday night.  The People's Platform wants two years of preschool for every child.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says the evidence in favor of early education is irrefutable.

“Children who have quality preschool education for two years leading up to enrolling in kindergarten… perform better,” he says.

But Portune says there still isn't a plan in place to pay for it.  He says in Hamilton County, the Children's Services Levy might be a funding source.  He says the amount of that levy hasn't changed in years.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re talking about an increase in taxes either. I think we have to talk about what are the resources that exist today and that are also generated by that levy.”

Portune says universal preschool is not the sole responsibility of county government but the county should have a seat at the table.

He says state government sets education standards and has a direct impact on education funding, but he says “If you end up waiting for the state to act you’re going to wait until something freezes over.”

An Ohio state lawmaker says there’s bi-partisan support in Columbus for expanded access to early childhood education.  State Representative Denise Driehaus spoke at the rally.  She says lawmakers have increased funding for pre-kindergarten in the last two budgets.

“We are not doing it to the level we need to do it, which would be very, very expensive.  But we did take a step in the right direction,” she says. 

Driehaus says she believes the state funding will only grow until there is enough for all children to get two years of pre-K schooling.