Early Thursday morning, at the end of an all-night session, the Ohio Senate passed HB 45, which contains an amendment saying some preschools and childcare centers in Ohio no longer need to participate in the Step Up To Quality rating system to receive state funding. The bill is now set to go to the governor for his signature.
Preschool quality rating
Step Up to Quality is a 5-star rating system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Under current law, all early childhood education and preschool providers funded by the Department of Education are required to participate in the rating system and must receive a rating of three or more stars to be eligible for state funding.
The amendment exempts home-based childcare providers from the rating system. Publicly funded daycares or preschools at less than 25 percent of their state-certified capacity would also no longer be held accountable to the rating system.
Under the changes, schools already given a rating won’t need to be re-evaluated to keep their state reimbursement rate. The state will no longer consider the star system when setting reimbursement rates for providers.
The amendment also redistributes $499 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds dedicated to Ohio’s childcare system. The money will now go directly to preschools and childcare centers. The state childcare program can no longer use these funds to help families with childcare costs or to recruit and keep childcare workers – problems that have become more acute in the wake of the pandemic.
Research and recommendations
These changes are in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Ohio General Assembly’s own study committee on publicly funded childcare and the Step Up To Quality program. The latest report by the committee said research has shown that children participating in a “star-rated” program were more kindergarten ready than children who did not.
This amendment was pushed by Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who has argued that the Step Up To Quality system involves too much regulation and puts good childcare centers out of business.
Katie Kelly, executive director of PRE4CLE, said in a statement Thursday morning that the changes made to Step Up To Quality in this amendment “do not increase access to quality care; disincentivize child care programs to improve their quality; proactively remove assurances to families that their children will receive a safe, stimulating and educational learning experience; and limit the impact and accountability of Ohio’s child care funding.”
Kelly said the passage of this amendment ignores the democratic process by disregarding recommendations based on a year’s worth of research and discussion from a bipartisan committee.
Kelly added that PRE4CLE, an organization created as part of the Cleveland Plan in 2014 to ensure high-quality preschool education for children in Cleveland, intends to work with the governor and the state legislature during the budget process to review these changes and their impact on children, families and Ohio’s workforce.