State Takes Back $12 Million in Preschool Funding

Rep. Teresa Fedor talks to reporters about loss of preschool funding. [photo: Jo Ingles/ Statehouse News Bureau]
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by Jo Ingles

Changes in the rules involving preschool funding in Ohio have caught the attention of a state lawmaker.

Democratic State Representative Teresa Fedor says more than 3,900 Ohio preschoolers will be affected by a new rule that says state funded schools cannot get federal funding through Head Start – which means those schools will lose $12 million state dollars.

“This is not good government. This is not good oversight. It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of worse things,” says Fedor.

The legislator says the change comes as a surprise to the preschools affected. And she says that’s because it was made through JCARR (a board of state lawmakers that deals with special expenditures and approval of agency rule changes) rather than through actual legislation.

Fedor says advocates who would have wanted to have input on the discussion didn’t know about the proposed change until it had been made. Further, she says there is no good reason for this change because other states leverage federal dollars to increase spending for preschool.

“We are also leaving millions and millions of dollars on the table, of federal money that we deserve. We send money to the federal government. Now other states are going to get those preschool dollars, not Ohio,” she says.

In a written statement, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Cynthia Dungey says the state now is enforcing its long-standing policy of disallowing duplicative payments from the state and from the federal Head Start program – which is seen by state officials as a form of double dipping.

The statement goes on to say the $12 million will be used to promote high-quality outcomes for all of the 115,000 children in Ohio who receive publicly funded day care, and Dungey says none of them will lose that care because of this change. But Fedor worries the quality of child care will suffer because it has already been allotted for high-quality teachers and programming. And she worries, in the end, some slots will be cut.

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