Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ohio Legislative Candidates on Early Childhood Education

by Molly Smith

Tuesday night candidates for state senate and house seats in Athens County debated issues surrounding early childhood education and healthcare in Ohio. The debate was sponsored by Groundwork, a campaign for high-quality care and education for all children in Ohio up to age six.

In attendance were Clyde Evans (R-Incumbant) House 87th district; Debbie Phillips (D-Challenger) House 92nd district; and Rick Shriver (D-Challenger) and Tim Kettler (Green-Challenger), Senate 20th district. Ohio University's Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Tom Hodson mediated the debate.

Hodson began with explaining why Groundwork's mission was essential to Ohio. Governor Ted Strickland has budgeted $300 million to the 2008-2009 budget for education and Groundwork wants to ensure that enough of that money is focused on early childhood education and development.

Questions proposed at the debate focused on three areas: access to education services, quality and funding of early childhood education. The candidates were asked if they supported tax increases to secure funding for education programs, their position on all-day Kindergarten and voluntary behavioral screening. The debators all agreed that funding was the most important priority for the Groundwork mission because without funding, it is are unable to achieve any of its goals.

Shriver and Kettler were the only two competitors who showed up at the forum. Their positions on the questions were similar until it came to tax increases. Shriver does not support a tax increase, but Kettler said, "I believe education is a priority and the return on investment in education is more than three-fold." Evans has previously voted on a sales tax increase to education funding.

Attendees of the debate also included Ohio University faculty of the Early Childhood Education program. Joan McMath and Anne Oberlin gave their opinion following the debate.

OU faculty give their take on the prioritization of access quality and funding.

Three of the seven candidates who RSVPed to the event were not there. OU Education Professor Joan McMath said at the end of the day it could affect voters' opinion on these candidates.

OU faculty weigh in on senators lack of attendance.

Following the debate, attendees were given an opportunity to register to vote for the upcoming election on November fourth.

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