Crane Center co-hosts policy forum with Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus

On October 11, the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy co-hosted a policy discussion at the Statehouse to discuss quality in early childhood learning environments.

Read on for a recap of the event, view it here on the Ohio Channel, or check out this feature in Hannah News.

The day kicked off with opening remarks by LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives at the Office of the Ohio Governor, who shared highlights about how the DeWine Administration has focused on and invested in children’s issues. We were also joined by Allyson Eads, a parent whose son receives services through the Ohio Early Head Start program, about the critical need for affordable care for working families.

Next up were presentations by Dr. Laura Justice, Executive Director of the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy and Schoenbaum Family Center; and Dr. Angel Rhodes, Director for Early Childhood Initiatives at Future Ready Columbus. Dr. Justice shared research on the vital window of time occurring during early childhood, where cognitive and language development occurs rapidly, while Dr. Rhodes discussed the data on where Ohio currently stands in delivering high-quality ECE services.

The day then moved into two panel discussions centered on quality and the cost of quality in early learning. The first panel, moderated by Ohio House Representative Mary Lightbody, was tasked with outlining why quality matters for children, families and society, and discussing specific practices on the ground that produce quality environments (and/or those that prevent people from improving).

Dr. Iheoma Iruka, Chief Research Innovation Officer and Director of the Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation (CEERE) at HighScope, spoke about the key components of quality early care and education and why it should be viewed as a strategy for equity, a public health issue, and even an economic strategy.

Melissa Johnson, director of Starting Point Learning Center (a childcare provider in Columbus, Ohio), discussed what quality looks like for the youngest learners – infants and toddlers – and shared on-the-ground challenges related to maintaining quality in early care and education.

Finally, Dr. Valerie Alloy, head of the Early Childhood Mental Health Initiatives in the Bureau of Children and Families for Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, described how mental health and trauma factor into quality care and learning, and the importance of investing it and supporting trauma-responsive care for young children.

The second panel, moderated by Ohio House Representative Allison Russo and co-chair of the Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus, discussed the main challenges to improving and scaling up quality, as well as issues related to the teacher workforce and the costs associated with it.

Dr. Kelly Purtell, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Education and Human Ecology and Faculty Associate at the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, discussed what research tells us about what it takes to provide quality care and education for young children (including the costs associated with it). Nancy Cox, head of Laugh and Learn Daycare in rural Ashville, Ohio, shared about the unique challenges facing communities in rural Ohio, including access and costs of delivering quality. Finally, Colin McGinnis, CEO of South Side Early Learning in Columbus, shared his perspective on the challenges of combining multiple funding streams in order to serve his center’s families.

After each panel, audience members reflected and held small table discussions to identify any key policy levers or mechanisms related to the topic at hand that they would like Ohio policy makers to consider. Cheryl Odom, the founder of Ohio’s first five-star rated home provider (who are among the least studied and understood members of the child care community), also attended and shared her perspective with the group.

The event closed with Dr. Justice reflecting on key takeaways that had been shared during the day (from presenters and participants alike). These included: the fact that quality childcare is a workforce issue (both for families who need stable care so they can go to work, and for educators who face challenges); the need to examine Ohio’s thresholds/eligibility for services; the need for more research on home-based providers; and a call to action for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to continue getting together to learn from one another.