Children’s Coalition: Senate Budget Prioritizes Tax Cut ‘Gimmick’ over Schools, Child Care
Senate’s version of the budget shortchanges schools, child care providers and
low-income families, according to members of the Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition.
Defense Fund-Ohio Executive Director Tracy Najera, Ohio Education Association
(OEA) President Scott DiMauro and Pre4Cle Executive Director Katie Kelly held a
press conference on Thursday to denounce many provisions in the substitute
version of HB110 (Oelslager), which was accepted in the Senate Finance
Committee earlier this week. (See The Hannah Report, 6/1/21.)
need our leaders to choose to invest in programs that lead to thriving
communities, excellent schools, accessible and high-quality child care, and
safe and nurturing homes and communities, rather than operating in an austerity
mindset when it comes to Ohioans who are truly in need. The repeated tendency
is to give away our tax dollars to the few, or for symbolic purposes,” Najera
said, noting the proposed 5 percent tax cut is “more like a gimmick, rather
than an investment in Ohio’s future.”
tax cut is worth $874 million, and the amount that people will actually benefit
from that, it’s not significant,” Najera said.
you think about the purpose of government, when you think about the purpose of
taxes and pulling our money together to buy those common goods that benefit all
of us, it is child care and K-12 education,” she continued. “Those dollars
would be better spent going toward providing that child care infrastructure for
parents, for working individuals who can’t make that choice between employment
and the safety of our children. We need that infrastructure to be there to serve
all of us, and similarly with K-12. We keep hearing from employers that they
need folks in the workforce ready to hit the ground running. That doesn’t
happen by accident. It happens because you have a quality K-12 infrastructure.”
agreed, saying investments in child care and K-12 education will do more for
the economy than tax cuts would.
is really the best path? Is it giving people $70 to $200 back in their pockets?
I know I can’t create a job with $200. I don’t know who else can,” Kelly said.
lawmakers want to modify tax policy to help Ohioans and the economy, they
should include something like a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in
the budget, Kelly and Najera said.
work is based on and grounded in research and evidence,” Najera said. “When you
think about things like EITC, it is evidence-based. It’s a body of research
that shows it is one of the number one anti-poverty public policy solutions
that we have in our toolkit. Why we’re not using it more, I don’t know. One of
the things we need to ask ourselves is, ‘Are we following the research when it
comes to items that have been included in this budget, or are we following
something else?’ … We have so many legislators who want to emulate business and
business practices, so let’s do that. Let’s follow best practices. Let’s look
at what the customer needs, and the customer in this case is Ohioans -- all
Ohioans, not just certain segments.”
his remarks, DiMauro criticized the substance of the Senate’s education funding
plan, as well as the process.
plan that was passed by the Senate was crafted in a process that was behind
closed doors. … It was just released 48 hours ago. We’re still in the process
of trying to digest it. There was no apparent public input. There has been no
bipartisanship. There has been no support from education stakeholder groups for
the Senate plan. … And on top of all that, it appears that the Senate’s version
of the funding formula is in temporary code, which adds another layer of
uncertainty once we get past this budget cycle,” DiMauro said.
Fair School Funding Plan that was passed by the House represents more than
three years of work by legislators, local school leaders and education finance
experts to craft meaningful alternatives to the current way Ohio funds
education,” he continued. “It seeks to base funding on what students need,
based on the actual cost of providing a high-quality education. The Fair School
Funding Plan has broad bipartisan support in the House.”
fully phased in, the House plan would provide a statewide average base of
approximately $7,200 per pupil, DiMauro said, noting the Senate plan only
provides $6,110 per pupil, which is an increase of $90, or 1.5 percent, from
two years ago.
Senate’s] increase only covers about one quarter the inflation rate,” he said,
adding that senators provided much larger percentage increases for private and
increase funding for private school vouchers by 25 percent. The Senate further
expands eligibility for vouchers and charter schools at the expense of children
in our public schools, where 90 percent of Ohio’s children are educated,”
DiMauro said. “Under the Senate plan, a high school student getting a private
school voucher would receive more state aid than kids attending 80 percent of
Ohio’s public schools. Voucher students would get more funding than public
students in about 50 percent of Ohio’s public schools. By not instituting a
permanent funding formula, the Senate leaves itself with an opportunity to
radically defund local public schools in the next General Assembly and further
boost private and charter schools.”
to a question from Hannah News, DiMauro said it’s unclear exactly how
much money would be shifted from public schools to private and charter schools
under the Senate’s plan.
know that in the Senate version of the budget, they lift the cap on the number
of EdChoice vouchers that can be provided, and they also significantly increase
the amount of funding available for individual vouchers. In the Senate plan, there
is $7,500 for a high school student going to a private school, which is
significantly more than the base funding amount for students attending public
schools,” DiMauro said. “We also know that in the proposal in the Senate, it
takes away some of the limitations on where charter school startups can happen.
Right now, it’s limited to places where there are performance standards for
public schools that basically provide a trigger for opening a charter school.
Those are largely taken away, and so you can see new charter startups happening
said the state has the capacity to pay for the Fair School Funding Plan, but
senators need to show the “political will” to fund education instead of items
like the proposed 5 percent tax cut.
this revenue will hamstring Ohio’s ability to adequately fund our schools and
other important programs. Ohio doesn’t need more tax cuts. We need more funding
for our students,” he said.
her remarks, Kelly said she was “extremely disappointed” to find that the
Senate removed Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) requirements for licensed child care
centers to provide publicly-funded services, calling it “shortsighted and
extremely harmful” to Ohio’s early childhood learning system.
is Ohio’s research-based five-star quality rating system for early learning
programs. A star rating is a sign that an early care education provider has
invested in program standards that exceed licensing, health and safety
regulations, and are proven to support learning and development standards in
young children. SUTQ standards include elements such as implementing a
research-based curriculum, working with teachers to ensure that they have early
learning and child development understanding, engaging families, smaller class
sizes, and other supports that are essential to young children. These are not
pie-in-the-sky standards or merely paperwork checklist items. These are fundamentals
that all effective early education programs need, and all children deserve,”
Kelly said, adding that SUTQ was passed 15 years ago with support from Republicans
2007, the state and local communities have invested in increasing both access
and quality in early childhood settings, and we are now seeing the results of
those investments. In Cleveland, we consistently see a 17-percentage-point
difference, at least, in kindergarten readiness between children who experience
high quality preschool and children who are in unrated child care settings.
Those kinds of results are being replicated throughout the state,” Kelly said. “In
2020, Ohio met the goal of all state-funded early learning programs reaching at
least a one star within SUTQ, a major accomplishment that took eight years of
effort and investment on behalf of the state, local communities and thousands
of early childhood providers who worked very hard to reach that goal. The
Senate version would move us backward, and throw away that accomplishment and
said children’s advocates are happy to see the Senate’s proposed increase in
eligibility for publicly-funded child care to 142 percent of the federal
poverty level, which is higher than the levels proposed by the DeWine
administration and the House (138 percent of federal poverty).
agree that more families should have access to child care, which is why we
continue to advocate for eligibility to increase to 200 percent of the federal
poverty level,” Kelly said, noting that Ohio would still rank in the bottom
five states in the U.S. in terms of child care access if the level is increased
to 142 percent. She said she’s not sure how many extra children would gain
access under the 142 percent proposal because she was not involved in those
discussions, but knows that the 138 percent proposal would affect about 2,500
to 150 would impact about 18,000 children, so that’s why we were aiming for
that as the interim step. I don’t know if 142 was just sort of a mid-point
between those. I’m not sure where that came from,” Kelly said. “At 130, we are
the second lowest state as far as income eligibility for child care, so we have
a long way to go. And 200 percent is not a ceiling, it’s really what we see as
what should be the floor.”
also criticized a budget provision that prohibits the Ohio Department of Job
and Family Services (ODJFS) from using federal funding through the Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2021 or the American Rescue Plan Act to provide stipends
or workforce supports to child care staff, early childhood professionals or
administration. Federal pandemic relief funding also cannot be spent on helping
publicly-funded child care providers increase their SUTQ rating, under the
2020 and 2021, all of Ohio’s early learning programs experienced closures,
reduced classroom sizes and financial and human hardship of illness, drastic
new safety protocols and constant change. Unlike K-12 schools, early childhood
programs could not ask children to mask or keep their social distance. That’s
not what two- three- and four-year-olds are able to do. So the only way that
they could maintain safety within their programs was to reduce the number of
children in classrooms and constantly address the sanitation that they needed
to maintain. All of those things caused an ongoing decrease in capacity, which
we’re still dealing with as a state. Removing SUTQ and putting handcuffs on how
the state can spend federal relief dollars will not solve those issues that
we’re still experiencing as a result of the pandemic,” Kelly said.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on June 3, 2021. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.