This picture is a screen capture of the google cache of Ted Strickland’s now defunct campaign website from 2006.
Provide every child a fair start through access to high-quality early care and education.
Among the headlines Ted Strickland enjoyed during the 2006 campaign are the following…
Helping kids early will help Ohio later, candidate Strickland says (Cols. Dispatch)
Getting a campaign – and kids – started right (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Strickland’s first plank resonates (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
And in 2006, Ted Strickland was quoted as saying, “[Early education is] the most effective use of economic dollars.”
Without question, if Turnaround Ohio was Ted Strickland’s campaign theme, early education clearly served as its bedrock.
So, the question each Ohioan should be asking is simple.
How’d he do?
Well, it depends on whether you think cutting services for over 15,000 children sounds like “providing every child with a fair start.”
The Early Learning Initiative, which funds full-day preschool for some 13,000 children, was one of 61 items that Gov. Strickland struck from the budget last week using the power of his line-item veto.
The state also runs an older half-day program, once called “public preschool” and now called Early Childhood Education. Children in this program are typically taught in pre-K classrooms located in public schools. To balance the budget, lawmakers stripped the program of $11 million, leaving it with $23.5 million. About 1500 to 2300 fewer children will be able to served, said Jane Wiechel, an early education official at the Department of Education.
So where will parents enroll those children instead? Good question. If they are looking for an affordable alternative at a child care center they may find themselves out of luck. The budget ax came down on child care providers too. The Ohio Legislature reduced reimbursement rates for providers that serve low-income families and lowered the income level at which families can qualify for subsidies. Newcomers to the subsidy program must now show that their incomes are at 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($33,075 for a family of four). Previously, families at up to 200 percent of the poverty were eligible.
So not only is Strickland knocking 15,000 kids out of early education, he’s also making sure a large number of parents won’t have the resources necessary to have someone look after their kids while they are at work. So what happens then? The parent has to hope Grandma can stay home with the child, or else choose between quitting their jobs and staying home with their kid or heading to work and hope the kid finds the peanut butter & jelly.
And it doesn’t end there.
The shame is that the backsliding on early childhood investments may take Ohio out of the running for a new federal grant program that is part of legislation in Congress this week. Under the proposed planning for Early Learning Challenge Grants, states can compete for $1 billion a year to build a state-wide early learning system. The catch is that to get the grants, states must show progress and dedication to upgrading what they’ve already got. Ohio no longer looks so strong on that score.
Including a few smaller programs not mentioned above, the cuts mean a drop of about $150 million in funding for early childhood in Ohio from 2009 to 2010, according to the summary by the Department of Jobs and Family Services.
Overall, Strickland has cost the state a potential net loss of $1.15 billion for Ohio’s children.
The Education Governor?
As Americans, we’ve learned to be cynical about our political leaders. We’ve accepted that part of the political process includes bending and breaking promises. But that doesn’t mean our cynicism knows no bounds.
Ted Strickland is guilty of violating the trust of Ohioans and allowing his ambition to trump reality. By making lobbying Washington for temporary federal dollars his #1 priority, he has wasted his term as Governor and left Ohio to sink down the drain.
This isn’t a joke, Governor. Because of your gross incompetence you have brought pain and suffering to thousands of your state’s citizens.
Rewarding you with another term wouldn’t just be wrong, it would be a massive miscarriage of political justice.
h/t: Johnny Drama for his research assistance