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Advocates for children petition Ohio governor

The Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition has made recommendations for the 2022-23 budget to Gov. Mike DeWine about how to handle issues involving the state’s children.

“While children make up 22 percent of Ohio’s population, they represent 100 percent of Ohio’s future,” said Tracy Najera, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.

“As a coalition, we recognize that investing in a ‘whole child’ budget agenda is critical for Ohio’s continued success. It is critical that we do right by Ohio children in the upcoming state budget.”

The seven issues are infant and maternal mortality, summer food access, the earned income tax credit, child lead exposure prevention, equal access to child care and preschool, school funding and broadband internet accessibility.

MORTALITY , FOOD ACCESS

The death rate between 2012 and 2016 for pregnant women in Ohio was 19.2 out of 100,000 births, ranking Ohio 27 out of 47 states that report this data, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio states.

“Ohio’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Panel published a report showing that between 2008 and 2016, over half the deaths of women who were pregnant or who died within one year of pregnancy were preventable. The report also showed that black women died at a rate more than 2 1/2 times that of white women,” the report states.

In 2018, the black infant mortality rate in Ohio was 13.9 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to the white infant mortality rate of 5.4 deaths per 1,000 births, the report states.

To help reduce deaths, the report recommends the state offer pregnant women Medicaid coverage for up to a year so they can continue to receive services after giving birth; the expansion of Medicaid coverage to cover doula services. A doula is a trained companion who is not a health care professional who supports another individual through a significant health-related experience, such as childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion or stillbirth.

The report also recommends increasing home-based visiting programs; continuing to support prepregnancy, pregnancy and post-pregnancy services; expanding anti-racism training and cultural competency training in health care; and ensuring accessibility to the internet.

Ohio ranks 12th-highest for childhood food insecurity in the nation, according to the Children’s Hunger Alliance.

To help kids that depend on those meals, the brief recommends doubling participation in a federal program that reimburses the state for food programs, which would bring in $4.35 million to the state to assist.

State officials should push to make permanent COVID-19 supports that allow the food programs to occur outside of a congregate setting, because the programs require the food to be served in congregate settings, which was an element of the rule suspended because of COVID-19, the report states.

The state’s congressional delegation should work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand summer food programs, the report states.

TAX CREDIT , LEAD EXPOSURE

“The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program. In 2016, it lifted 265,000 Ohioans out of poverty. In 2019, 887,000 Ohioans claimed the credit,” Policy Matters Ohio states.

Children from families that claim refundable EITCs have higher birth weights, lower infant mortality rates, get better grades in school, have higher college enrollment rates, and earn more during their lifetime, the brief states.

“Only a small percentage of Ohio’s neediest families are aided by the current state EITC.Recent changes to the state EITC added just $6 to the average value of the credit to Ohio’s poorest families,” Policy Matters Ohio states.

Modest increases in the program would help many families, especially the poorest of Ohio families earning less than $22,000 per year, the brief states.

“Child lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain and nervous system damage, leading to learning and behavioral challenges, lower IQ, lower academic achievement, increased hyperactivity, emotional problems and future delinquent behavior,” said the Ohio Lead Free Kids Coalition. Ninety-five percent of Ohio’s lead poisoning cases result from dust created by lead-based paint in houses built before 1978.

Between 2015 and 2019, 21,076 kids in the state tested positive for elevated lead levels, the report states. In 2019, 2.1 percent of kids tested had elevated levels.

To address the problem, the state should double the $20 million spent on lead control programs, put the Ohio Department of Health in charge of overseeing lead abatement programs and free up more state funds for lead poisoning prevention.

CHILD CARE, SCHOOL FUNDING

In Ohio, 26 percent of black children and 41 percent of all children start kindergarten ready to learn, Policy Matters Ohio states.

It recommends the state should at least protect current levels of funding for programs, expand eligibility for publicly funded child care to support more families so that a family of three making $43,440 or less would qualify, support child care providers to improve their programs and consider equity between race, rural geography and age when evaluating programs.

“Now is the time for state lawmakers to fully fund an early care and education system that supports all kids, families and our state’s economy,” the report states.

Ohio still doesn’t have a constitutional way to fund public schools, states the Ohio Education Association, though court rulings since 1997 have called for a revamp of the system.

The state should spent an additional $2 billion on public education over the next six years, fund private schools with additional funds instead of deducting it from school districts, create an independent authority to ensure changes are made based on evidence, invest in remote learning and invest in studies to improve funding for students in poverty, special needs students, gifted students and students who speak English as a second language, the report recommends.

BROADBAND

“Nearly one in eight families lack access to broadband. In Ohio’s nine largest central cities, about one household in five lacks basic internet service,” states the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.

About 435,000 school-aged children, or one out of every four, in 2018 didn’t have broadband and / or a device to connect, the report states.

To address affordability issues, the state should subsidize the cost and appropriate $3.6 million to fund internet subscriptions, and use financing tools for further reach, the report recommends.

Investing $30 million in programs could bring in $200 million to aid the programs, the report states.

“The best way to address the inequitable access gaps in our broadband infrastructure — its affordability — is by making it accessible to everyone as an essential utility. A robust broadband network would boost our economy and ensure everyone had access to quality internet service at an adequate upload and download speed,” the report states.

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