Ohio preschool enrollment and spending goes up, but still ranks low in national study
Despite preschool enrollment and state spending for programs increasing, Ohio ranked low in a new early childhood education report released last Thursday.
Ohio ranked 36th in enrollment at age 4 (10 percent) and 27th at enrollment at age 3 (2 percent), according to Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research.
“Ohio leaders must address this ongoing lack of access, lackluster quality and related issues of teacher retention and pay to ensure that all children have access to the educational opportunities they deserve,” Allison Friedman-Krauss, the report’s lead author, said in a news release.
Enrollment in Ohio’s state-funded preschool during the 2021-2022 school year was 16,732, an increase of 1,680, according to the report. Fifty-seven percent of Ohio school districts offered state preschool programs.
State spending for preschool programs was $66,928,000, an increase of $1,722,262 when adjusted for inflation. Ohio’s state spending per child enrolled in preschool was $4,000, which ranked 36th in the nation. This is down $332 from the previous school year.
Ohio does not have universal preschool, but according to the report, seven states are working towards universal preschool: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New Mexico.
“Ohio should assess its support for preschool against neighbors and other states that provide much stronger support for access, quality standards, and funding per child. Ohio’s young children deserve no less than others,” W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., NIEER’s senior co-director, said in a news release.
The study analyzed early learning and development standards, curriculum supports, teacher and assistant teacher education, specialized training for teachers, staff professional development, class size, staff-child ratio, screening and referral and a continuous quality improvement system.
Ohio met only five of the 10 quality standards benchmarks: early learning & development standards; curriculum supports; teacher specialized training; screening and referral; and continuous quality improvement system.
National preschool figures
The report showed a 13-percent increase in enrollment in state-funded preschools. Enrollment, however, is down 8 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Preschool spending per child in 2021-2022 was $6,571, “essentially the same as it was 20 years ago after adjusting for inflation,” according to researchers.
“Progress in expanding access to high-quality state-funded preschool over the last two decades has been slow and uneven, despite proven benefits to children, families and our nation’s economy as a whole,” Friedman-Krauss said.
States spent $9.9 billion on preschool in 2021-2022, including $393 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
The state’s proposed two-year operating budget would create the Ohio Department of Children and Youth and the department’s director would be a member of the governor’s cabinet. The department would be the state’s primary children’s services agency and would oversee early learning and education, including preschool.
The Ohio House’s version of the budget also allocates $61 million per fiscal year increases to the Early Childhood Education grants, which is estimated to expand preschool to more than 15,000 additional children. The budget is currently in the Senate.
In January, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will receive $48 million in federal grants over the next three years to increase access to early childhood care and education.
ODJFS is partnering with the Ohio Departments of Education; Health; Mental Health and Addiction Services; Medicaid; and Developmental Disabilities to implement the grant programs which will increase access to early childhood education and create long-term local, state and federal funding for early childhood education programs.
“It will fund a needs assessment to determine the best way to provide safe and enriching early child care and education for young children with physical disabilities and emotional needs,” ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder said in a release.
Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the last five years reporting on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network. Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.