Ohio’s two gubernatorial candidates are laying out their plans for how to help children succeed. Both Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray say it all begins before the kids are even born, but Cordray sees one clear difference with his take.
DeWine's Agenda For Kids
Last month, DeWine sparked the conversation about specific policies that help children develop and thrive with a big agenda rollout, which included some of his previous proposals and some new ideas. More than half a million children in the state are living in poverty and, as DeWine explains, kids who start poor are more at-risk to a life of drug addiction or crime in the future.
“We are not going to have a prosperous, a competitive state of Ohio, a state that we want, by trying to fix major social problems after they develop,” DeWine said. “We can only do that by preventing these problems in the first place.”
DeWine’s plan increases funding to help newborn programs that reduce the infant mortality rate. He hopes to triple its reach and serve 30,000 people a year.
DeWine also hopes to increase access to early childhood education by raising the eligibility threshold from 130 percent of the poverty level to 150 percent - which is a little over $30,000 a year for a family of three. He proposes pumping $150 million more into early education learning facilities, as well.
“Ninety percent of brain development occurs, we’re told, during a child’s first five years of life, yet educational supports for most children really don’t begin until kindergarten,” DeWine said. “We must start early when the mother is expecting her baby and through that child’s first through years of life.”
This was described as one of DeWine’s biggest policy proposals, and there’s a section of his website dedicated to his “kids agenda.”
Cordray's Big Divide
Cordray didn’t respond to DeWine’s announcement right away, leaving that to his running mate Betty Sutton and other Democrats to point to some ideas that they support – as well as point out DeWine’s record on cuts to public education and after-school programming.
Then, a few days later, Cordray walked through his own plan to help young Ohioans. He too wants to see more investment into programs that reduce infant mortality and help more parents afford childcare.
Cordray adds that he’d like to expand universal pre-kindergarten education.
“It’s support for parents, it’s support for juggling childcare with working, which is true of single parent families definitely, and of many two parent families in this day and age,” Cordray says. “It is making sure that that program for three- and four-year olds is quality programming, that it is actually helping develop kids educationally, those are all pieces of the puzzle.”
Cordray notes that cities like Dayton and Cincinnati are seeing success with their universal pre-K programs. He says that the state could follow their lead by working with local community groups and private companies.
But, as Cordray argues, there’s one glaring philosophical difference to his approach compared to DeWine’s.
“You can’t be serious about the future of Ohio if you’re going to roll back the Medicaid expansion,” Cordray says.
DeWine hasn’t said directly he wants to end Medicaid expansion, but he hasn’t pledged to keep it around, either, arguing that the current structure is unsustainable.
More than 700,000 people receive health care coverage under Medicaid expansion, and Cordray says that rolling it back would undermine all other proposals that attempt to help at-risk Ohioans.
“If they have to stop everything because they’re worried about their own health care, everything else is going to be at risk, they’re going to be at risk, their children are going to be at risk,” Cordray says. “That just is common sense, including expectant mothers.”
DeWine’s campaign rebuts that claim, noting that Medicaid expansion covers non-disabled adults without dependents. Those with kids fall into a different category.
Cordray’s proposals are light on details on how exactly he would improve these programs and expand access. However, he says some of that would have to be figured out during the budget making process, which could be challenging considering Ohio’s currently a Republican-dominated legislature.