Preserving the Step Up to Quality System in Ohio
ReadyNation CEO Task Force Member Bob Myers urges lawmakers to support the SUTQ rating system in order to continue improving child care quality in Ohio
Business owners and operators in any state know that quality counts. Whether you are running a chain of convenience stores or a child care program, providing high-quality services impacts short- and long-term outcomes for an industry. I can attest to this as a former CEO of Casey’s General Stores, a Fortune 500 company with over 2,000 store operations across 16 Midwestern states, including Ohio.
In 1999, with significant support from the business community, Ohio began its effort to ensure all children had access to affordable, verifiable, quality child care. Ohio was a leader in creating a quality-rated “star” system to ensure child care providers meet basic standards of care and attain developmental milestones for our youngest citizens.
Ohio’s Step Up To Quality 5-star early care and child care rating and improvement system recognizes programs that exceed minimum health and safety standards and promote children’s learning and development. Moreover, Step Up To Quality provides verifiable evidence of success. Additionally, a recent University of Cincinnati report found that high-quality child care generates a 10 percent annual return on public investment.
The Step Up to Quality rating system has allowed Ohio to make meaningful progress in improving child care in the state. Yet, even with the gains made as a result of the quality rating system, research reviewed by ReadyNation Ohio estimates that only 10 percent of child care in Ohio at present is of very high quality.
Now would be the worst possible time to abandon a commitment to quality in child care. Yet, the Ohio Senate’s recently proposed budget includes changes that would destabilize the Step Up to Quality system. Senate President Huffman, citing concerns related to access and sustainability, has introduced substantive and unvetted changes to the program and funding opportunities for the program.
While business leaders understand and share Senator Huffman’s concerns about these programs, and we agree that we must re-evaluate and retool child care program business systems, the Senate made its proposed policy changes in the final days of the state budget process without input and guidance from experts. These kinds of changes have the potential to worsen, not improve, the ability of child care providers to support families’ needs and bolster the workforce of today and tomorrow.
Business leaders recommend restoring the House version of the budget as it relates to child care and quality, while maintaining the 142 percent of Federal Poverty Level increase from the Senate. This will stabilize the system and allow the state to utilize much-needed, one-time federal funds. Recognizing the Senate’s concern, the business community offers our years of experience for the Senate, House, and Governor’s use. We hope that our expertise can provide assistance in evaluating and addressing the system, and that we can offer guidance on any recommended improvements.
As Ohio-born Medal of Honor recipient William A. Foster said, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” We must maintain our commitment to quality for the sake of our children, working families, and workforce development.
Robert J. Myers
Chairman & CEO (Ret.), Casey’s General Stores, Inc.
Member, ReadyNation CEO Task Force on Early Childhood
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