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Step Forward applauds Governor Mike DeWine’s renewed focus on Ohio children and families

At the 2023 State of the State address, Governor Mike DeWine announced his commitment to supporting Ohioans and giving them the tools to succeed through supporting literacy, reducing infant mortality, and connecting low-income families to high-quality childcare.

“These first years of growth are so very, very important,” DeWine said. “That’s why introducing children to books as soon as they are born is vital to their development.”

Governor DeWine’s renewed focus on literacy among the state’s youngest citizens comes in response to data that showed nearly half of Ohio’s 3rd graders are not proficient in reading.

“There a is great deal of research about how we learn to read,” he explained. “And today, we understand the great value and importance of phonics. Not all literacy curriculums are created equal, and sadly, many Ohio students do not have access to the most effective reading curriculum.”

DeWine promised to make room in the state’s budget to make sure that all Ohio children have access to curriculum that is aligned with the evidence-based approaches of the Science of Reading.

Head Start programs, like those provided by Step Forward, highlight the importance of reading, even with children who haven't learned how yet. Before children can speak, hearing

conversations and language supports brain development and learning new words. Statistics show a child’s brain is 80 percent developed by the time they turn three. It’s why Step Forward encourages families to enroll their children into early childhood education programs like Head Start at a young age.

DeWine went on to outline his strategy to address the issue of reading proficiency. He directed the Ohio Department of Education to create an evidence-based plan, which would allow students to master reading skills and set them up for success in school and later in life.

The planned investments into Ohio’s children extend to mothers, too. The proposed budget expands a home-visiting initiative to reduce infant mortality to include an additional 10,000 families.

“Supporting mothers is crucial to set families up for success,” Douglass Bennett, Step Forward’s Vice President of Community Services and External Affairs, and Dr. Thea Wilson, Step Forward's Vice President of Children and Families, explained. “It’s why our agency has programs like the Baby & Mommy Support Program (BAMS) and Early Head Start. We help connect expectant mothers to resources and programs to prepare them for birth, and then support their child's development after birth through Early Head Start and Head Start.”

DeWine plans to support families by easing the financial burdens they experience as well. The proposed budget requests the repeal of state sales tax on critical infant supplies including diapers, car seats, and safety equipment. It also calls for a $2,500 per child tax deduction.

“Many families in Cuyahoga County cannot afford these essentials,” Bennett said. “We know this because we have seen a number of expectant mothers turn to Step Forward, asking for emergency assistance. Through our Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, we have been able to provide such necessary items and connect them to critical resources.”

DeWine also addressed how the benefit cliff effect pressures low-income families to often choose between benefits that make childcare accessible and taking on full-time positions that would disqualify them for such benefits. Through the proposed budget, DeWine promised another 15,000 children would have access to high-quality childcare that would prepare them for kindergarten.

“Many Ohio parents must choose between taking on full-time, full-year work or staying unemployed or underemployed, because they cannot afford the high cost of childcare,” he said. Dr. Wilson agreed, saying every child deserves the equal opportunity to start their education right.

“Children are our future," she said. "Circumstance and the cost of childcare or early childhood education shouldn’t hold back any young person who has a passion for learning and a desire to succeed." As the largest provider of Head Start in Ohio, Step Forward is confident that Governor DeWine’s commitment to families and children will continue to support those we serve in Cuyahoga County every day.


Learn more about Baby and Mommy Support here.

Learn more about enrolling your child in Head Start here.

Step Forward Head Start is hiring!

The agency is offering a sign-on bonus of $1,000 for full time employees and $500 for part-time employees. Positions include teachers, family service workers, nutrition aides and more. Step Forward Head Start is looking for education staff passionate about preparing young students for the future and helping them develop a love for learning early. Take a step toward a new fulfilling career today! Learn more and apply to open positions here.

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