State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) is proving herself to be an unusual Republic legislator. One who has a keen understanding of education issues, and a willingness to listen and work with educators, not just tow the ideological line.
The first piece of evidence being her attempt to fix the problems with the 3rd grade reading guarantee law, via SB21 which she sponsored and shepherded through the Senate on a 30-1 vote, and then passage through the House (albeit with some questionable changes having been made).
Now comes news of her attempt to bring Ohio's preschool efforts back from the dead
For every dollar Ohio spends on early childhood education, the return is $10 or more, said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering. The need to have students enter kindergarten prepared to learn is more vital than ever, she and others argued, especially as the state implements a new requirement that students pass a reading exam in third grade or risk being held back.
“So many of our children come to kindergarten two or three years behind their peers, and we’re trying to catch them up before third grade,” Lehner said. “If we don’t catch them up, they don’t have a prayer of passing that third-grade reading guarantee.”
This would be a welcome policy change of direction after the Governor's shameful evisceration of early childhood education in his previous budget, and unwillingness to restore those cuts in the current proposal
A decade ago, more than twice as many Ohio children were enrolled in the state’s preschool program than now.
According to a recent report by the National Institute for Early Education Research, in 2011-2012 total state enrollment for preschool was 9,379. The state only paid for 5,700 of those students; the rest were paid for by parents, local dollars or federal funds.
Compare that to the 2001-2002 school year when 23,599 Ohio children were enrolled in the state’s preschool program.
Although the situation isn’t unique to Ohio, the state did see the most drastic drop in early childhood education enrollment in the nation over the last decade.
According to NIEER, Ohio’s decline in the number of preschoolers in state funded programs is the result of state budget cuts over the last few years.
Kudos to Sen. Peggy Lehner, and here's hoping more of her colleagues follow her lead of listening to educators concerns.