Below you will find our legislative priorities and recommendations for the 131st General Assembly (2015-2016).

TEACHING AND CARING FOR
OUR YOUNG AND SCHOOL AGE KIDS

The YMCAs are the largest early childhood and school age care providers in Ohio, and helping children develop educationally and socially is a critical part of the YMCA mission.  In these programs, we serve kids from six weeks to age thirteen.

Y early childhood programs are early learning for children as young as six weeks, and no longer “babysitting.”  Investment in quality child care leads to Kindergarten readiness, increased 3rd grade reading proficiency, better graduation rates, reduced need for intervention, less involvement with the juvenile justice system, and a ready workforce for the future.

YMCAs’ school age programs are not just a place where kids socialize out of school.  At the Y, school age children continue their education after school in safe, stimulating environments.  We also reduce summer learning loss through quality summer camp programs.

Child care is economic development.  Early childhood and school age care is crucial to support Ohio’s working parents.  Parents, and their employers, rely on quality child care to teach and care for their children while they support their family.

Our child care programs also are a stable source for nutritious meals for kids in our care.  Ohio YMCAs provide thousands of meals each day through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which often is difficult to administer.  While our goal is to feed our kids, the program's burdensome restrictions prevent Ys from reaching that goal.

Our kids need stable and continuous learning

In Ohio, early learning and school age care for low income families is funded through a combination of Child Care Development Block Grant (“CCDBG”), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”) dollars, and state general funds.  These resources should give all kids access to quality child care, including low-income children who use their subsidies for YMCA child care programs.  In 2014, over 100,000 children under age six relied on subsidies for their early care.

Currently, the majority of child care services are reimbursed at the 21st percentile of market rate, down from 26th two years ago and 33rd five years ago.  The federal recommendation is the 75th percentile.  Our early learning and school age care cannot continue without a stable financial and system foundation.  With continued instability, high-need communities will lose early learning and school age programs.

To stabilize the early learning and school age care system and provide a bridge to quality, we recommend the following:

1. Stabilize funding to ensure that children can learn in high-quality child care environments.

Children will enter Kindergarten prepared to learn when they experience high quality early learning child care.  Yet, because the child care system is not stable, child care centers struggle to achieve and maintain high quality.  A system that is paid based on children enrolled in a child care center (with an 85% attendance verification) would provide needed financial stability to run high quality programs.

In Ohio's newest preschool investments, and the Kindergarten through 12th grade system, providers and schools are paid based on children enrolled.  This payment structure creates a stable environment for schools to operate.  The early learning and school age care system should be no different.  Currently, providers are paid based on each pass of a swipe card.  Unfortunately, many of the hours providers teach and care for children do not get reimbursed because of the swipe care system.  Parents forget to swipe and miss the back-swipe period often.

The swipe card system still can be utilized to ensure providers are not abusing the enrollment-based reimbursement structure, and to make sure children are attending at the 85% threshold.

2. Create an "Bridge to Quality" incentive program.

We support moving toward a stronger system of quality-rated child care programs.  Quality care is critical to ensure our kids are prepared for school.  Yet, providers cannot begin improving the quality of programs, and sustain that quality, without sufficient financial investment.

However, out of Ohio’s 5,522 child care centers, only 14% (798) are highly rated.  Attaining higher star ratings is costly for providers, and with reimbursement rates being at an all-time low, building financial capacity to reach those high stars is close to impossible.

A bridge to quality program could include the following details: (1) a center can create a 12-18 month action plan for achieving quality, (2) star level payment begins when plan is approved., (3) a center can only use the bridge once every four years per center, and (4) create a penalty if quality is not achieved pursuant to the action plan.

 

3. Ensure that Step Up to Quality rewards high quality behavior and enables all providers to rise to high star levels.

The current Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) rating system was created around early learning programs, which leaves school age care unable to navigate the high star ratings.  With school age care being one third of the subsidized child care budget, and educational success critical, we cannot ignore school age child care programs.

Additionally, many of those early learning and school age programs are implementing healthy eating and active living policies for the center, including changes for both staff and children.  The YMCA movement nationally is implementing YMCA Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards.  Providers should be able to gain points for higher star ratings by making these sorts of high quality improvements.

Providing healthy meals to kids in our care is critical to their learning and development

Ohio YMCAs provide over 7000 meals per day to children and youth in our early learning and school age programs.  The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federally-funded United States Department of Agriculture program administered by the Ohio Department of Education.  CACFP enables child care centers to provide nutritious meals and snacks as a regular part of their care and that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of kids in need.

Unfortunately, some of the rules around utilizing CACFP make providing those critical meals very difficult.  Some rules come from USDA, and others from ODE.  For example, very detailed schedule requirements must be kept concerning when meals and snacks may be served.  Those requirements often run counter to our parents’ work schedules and older youths’ attendance habits.  Thus, at times, some kids are left without a meal.

We ask that the goal of the CACFP program, which is to provide meals to children in need, be the first consideration in any rules the state creates.

YOUTH & GOVERNMENT IS MEANINGFUL YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

Youth development is a central pillar to the YMCA mission, and YMCA Youth & Government is a critical piece of that pillar.  Youth & Government (YG) is a three-day learning conference in which students participate directly in a simulation of the democratic process.  YG offers students the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of issues, develop critical thinking skills, and articulate their beliefs while engaging constructively with those who hold like and opposing views.

YG includes all three branches of government, as well as the Press Corp.  In the legislative program, student representatives and senators elect their leadership, research current events, and write bills throughout the year.  For these legislators, the mock legislative experience culminates by debating their bills on the Ohio House and Senate floors and seeking signature. Students also can participate as lobbyists and pages.

The executive branch of YG includes a race each year for Youth Governor.  Candidates create platforms and advocate their qualifications during the gubernatorial debate and through “grassroots” campaigning.  Once elected, the Youth Governor becomes the leader and face of the program.  The Youth Governor hand-selects his or her student cabinet who seek the passage or failure of bills based on the Youth Governor’s platform.

In the judicial program, student justices preside over a Youth Supreme Court.  Student attorneys prepare briefs for the Court, as well as present oral arguments.  The student justices, then, deliberate and issue their opinion.

In 2015 and 2016, we will have over 700 students participate in our Statehouse conferences.  At that number, YG will have exceeded its largest program in Ohio’s history!

©2004-2017 Ohio Alliance of YMCAs