Ohio governor race: DeWine says he wants to make these changes to Ohio’s early childhood programs

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wants to increase investments in early childhood development and education across the state, saying his proposed policy changes could give 20,000 additional Ohio children access to publicly funded early childhood programs.

In a meeting with child care experts in Dayton on Friday, the Republican gubernatorial candidate heard policy suggestions and talked about his proposals, which he hopes will increase access to early childhood healthcare and education across the state.

“When you look at the challenges that the state faces … a lot of it comes back to early childhood development,” DeWine said.

DeWine has announced a variety of sweeping proposed changes to overhaul Ohio’s child care system, including:

• Raising the eligibility level for publicly funded early childhood programs for working families from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The DeWine campaign says this would extend access to programs to 20,000 additional children.

• Tripling the number of families served through home-visiting programs

• Ensuring every Ohio school has access to a mental health professional

• Reforming the child welfare system to create a minimum standard of care, as well as creating an independent position to investigate and publish findings on complaints

• Implementing prevention-based education in public schools to combat the drug epidemic

• Creating a cabinet-level position to coordinate children’s programs across all state agencies

Deborah Feldman, the president and CEO of Dayton Children’s Hospital, attended the meeting. Feldman hopes to see a more uniform system of child care programs.

“There has to be more integration of policy,” Feldman said. “We have too many different programs, too many different eligibility systems.”

Shannon Cox, the associate superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said a state-level push for better child education and healthcare was necessary for change.

“We’re kind of left on our own to make those efforts,” Cox said. “Having someone at the cabinet level to make those efforts come together and leverage upon each other, that’s going to lead to systemic change.”

DeWine said he hopes to create a more uniform system of child care in Ohio.

“You cannot separate education from nutrition from healthcare,” DeWine said. “All of these impact on how well that child is going to develop.”

Some remained skeptical of DeWine’s dedication to children. Ohio Democratic Party spokesperson Robyn Patterson said DeWine hasn’t been so empathetic in the past.

“Mike DeWine has spent his 42-year tenure in public office opposing increased education funding and attacking programs that provide health insurance to kids,” Patterson said. “Ohio deserves a governor like Rich Cordray, who will expand access to preschool and protect John Kasich’s medicaid expansion.”

Cordray, a Democrat and DeWine’s gubernatorial opponent, has also said he wants more government support for early childhood education, and previously participated in a round-table discussion in Dayton.

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