With a looming Aug. 24 deadline to apply for funds through the federal Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants, State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) gathered with over 20 childcare experts and providers from across the state today for a news conference call to urge other Head Start providers to pursue the federal grant while the Toledo lawmaker fights for the reversal of a new Kasich Administration restriction that prohibits layering state and federal funds for early childhood education.
“I don’t want people to lose hope. Our children’s future depends on us pushing forward, collectively with one voice to say we will not back down,” said Fedor. “We will fight for our future. We will fight for our children.”
The Kasich Administration’s new restrictions could jeopardize Ohio’s share of $135 million in total program funding available through the Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants. Childcare experts and early education providers on the call applauded Fedor’s call to meet the Aug. 24 deadline while also highlighting challenges the new restriction puts on Ohio providers.
“We absolutely need to apply, but our ability to be competitive and win is really being compromised by the state,” said Jeff Lakes, CFO of Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc.
The state estimates the new rule restriction, which prohibits pre-school providers from layering federal and state funding to serve more children and families, will cut $12 million in state funding to pre-school providers throughout Ohio, not counting hundreds of millions of lost dollars in federal grants and private dollars for early childhood programs.
“We have been able to serve the most at-risk children with the highest-possible quality programs because we have been able to layer funds,” said Karen Lampe, President of Creative World of Learning, a Miami Valley early-childhood education provider. “Providers like myself in partnership with Head Start organizations have been able retain higher degree teachers, better curriculum and assessment programs and lower teacher ratios, but with the state’s new restriction we are very concerned about being able to offer that same level of high-quality.”
Fedor said that during the last 24 hours she has heard early-childhood education providers lose hope in the face of the Kasich Administration’s new funding restriction. The Northwest Ohio lawmaker promised those on the call that if they did their part and applied for the federal funds, she would continue to work toward a rule reversal in Columbus.
“We are in this harrowing situation right now because the governor never picked up the phone and called anybody,” Fedor said on the call. “Our children and their future success is not a partisan issue; Republicans, Democrats, advocates and the business community all agree that childcare providers should be able to utilize every resource available to provide low-income, vulnerable children with the early education they need and deserve.”
Fedor, in concert with numerous Democratic and Republican lawmakers, county officials, education experts and business leaders have sent Gov. John Kasich letters detailing the implications of his administration’s new restriction and calling for him to reverse the new rule.
“Ohio is risking the very real possibility of leaving at least fourteen-million new dollars on the table because of the state’s new restriction,” said Barbara Hexton, Executive Director of the Ohio Head Start Association, Inc. “We have always been very successful in our grant applications, but funding for high quality services for our children is now being jeopardized by the state.”