Council, OSU Researchers Release Study on the State of Early Childhood Education Access
Council-Commissioned Ohio State Study Tells Story of Early Childhood Care and Education in Franklin County with an Emphasis on Linden, Hilltop and South Side
On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown and The Ohio State University’s Crane Center presented the findings of new research on the varying levels of access to and participation in early childhood education in Franklin County among different resident populations and neighborhoods.
“Access to affordable, quality early learning opportunities is a matter of basic infrastructure," said Pro Tem Brown. "It not only supports working families and our economy, but it also invests in our future by preparing our kids for success in school and beyond.”
This seven-month study explored the early childhood education experiences of families with children zero to five in Franklin County, be they formal, informal, center-based, at-home, or relative/kinship care. It also sought to gather data around the unique experiences—barriers and challenges—of children in three specific Columbus neighborhoods: the Hilltop, Linden, and South Side.
Young children’s early education experiences impact their readiness for kindergarten, which itself strongly impacts a child’s success throughout their schooling and beyond. Because of this, it is essential to understand children’s early education experiences.
“This research will help us make smart and equitable investments that knock down barriers to accessing childcare resources—a critical part of leveling the playing field for every family in Columbus," said Brown.
VIEW THE REPORT HERE
Some of the findings indicated a dramatic difference in Columbus' early childcare and educational landscape compared to the national average. The three main takeaways were:
- Enrollment in early childhood education programs in Franklin County, and the Three Community Sample, lags behind national averages, and these lower rates may reflect barriers to finding quality care for children
- There are quality programs in Franklin County, but access and knowledge is key. Approximately 60-70% of families rely on families and friends to find care and very few rely on agencies (1%)
- Children participating in out-of-home care have distinct daily experiences compared with those cared for in the home, and these differences in daily experiences are key for children’s early learning and development
"Early childhood education holds great promise for our youngest learners," said Dr. Arya Ansari, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Education and Human Ecology, and a co-investigator on the study. "But to deliver on this promise, we need to ensure equitable access to high quality programs for all children and families in our community."
The City of Columbus has prioritized early childhood education through investments in Early Start Columbus, support for credentials for early educators, direct grants to early childhood providers, and more. This research is a key piece of evaluating whether the current early learning system meets families’ needs and what future investments are necessary to sustain a high-quality, affordable, and equitable early learning landscape that all families can access.
"From our data, we know 85% of Early Start kids are ready for kindergarten when they get there, far above Ohio’s 59% average, but the 1,000 four-year-olds who participate have 11,000 peers who might not fare so well," said Brown. "For all of our youngest residents, universal Pre-K is the wisest investment we can make for their present and our collective future."
Council's work to level the playing field for Columbus children will continue.