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Coalition Supports Preserving Child Care Program For Accountability

child coloring

A group of business leaders and child care advocates are calling on lawmakers to reverse course on a change proposed in the state budget bill.

The coalition argues against the Senate budget proposal that would eliminate the five-star Step Up To Quality program used to determine which child care facilities kids who get state assistance can go to.

Lynanne Gutierrez with Groundwork Ohio, a child advocacy group, said that program allots taxpayer money to facilities that can show they provide a base-level of early childhood education.  

"This is about the willingness to make an investment in what matters and what we know can produce outcomes with public dollars versus making a short-sided decision to try to solve a long-term spending problem at the expense of all of our youngest children," Gutierrez said.

Critics of the Step Up To Quality star program say it creates too much paperwork and leads to a decline in child care facilities for low-income families.

Andrea Stout, director of The Learning Tree child care center in Allen County, said the cost of maintaining the facility's involvement in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' Step Up To Quality star program was outweighing the benefits.

"Our child care program can only sustain what we can utilize by private paying parents. I was unwilling to raise the rates for private paying parents to sustain being able to maintain and keep the children on ODJFS, " Stout said during a press conference with Senate leaders, adding that her facility tried to keep serving low-income families through other measures such as scholarships.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said, along with eliminating the Step Up To Quality star program, the legislation would increase eligibility for assistance from 130% of the federal poverty level to 142%. 

Supporters of the program argue the administrative work to keep aligned with Step Up To Quality is minimal and believes lawmakers should focus on other ways to help expand access to child care.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.