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Our lead ally in Ohio, Groundwork Ohio, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families, and communities.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 41% (495,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 45% (555,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On July 5, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a two-year budget for fiscal 2024-2025 after issuing 44 line-item vetoes. The budget calls for total spending of $95.0 billion in fiscal 2024 (an 8.7 percent increase from fiscal 2024) and $95.7 billion in fiscal 2025 (a 0.7 percent increase from fiscal 2024). General revenue fund appropriations (including state and federal general revenue fund appropriations) total $41.4 billion in fiscal 2024 (a 9.7 percent increase from fiscal 2023) and $44.7 billion in fiscal 2025 (an 8.0 percent increase from fiscal 2024). State-source general revenue fund appropriations total $27.9 billion in fiscal 2024 and $29.5 billion in fiscal 2025, representing increases of 12.8 percent and 5.6 percent respectively. The budget forecasts general revenue fund total taxes at $28.9 billion in fiscal 2024 (flat growth from fiscal 2023) and $28.8 billion in fiscal 2025 (a 0.6 percent decrease from fiscal 2024).3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Property Taxes: $1,552 per capita
    • Charges: $1,530 per capita

Ohio does not levy a corporate income tax but reports some revenue because it has a special tax on financial institutions. Ohio’s main business tax is its gross receipts tax. Charges are public payments connected with a specific government service, such as tuition paid to a state university, payments to a public hospital, or highway tolls. 

Political Alignment: Aligned Republican

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Republican.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Five

    • Legislature Referred State Statutes – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Initiated State Statutes – Earns a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Ohio.
    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Veto Referenda – When citizens of Ohio disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

The final version of our state’s operating budget falls short of what Ohio’s young children and the families that care for them need. It falls short of what early childhood professionals deserve. It also falls short of what our business and community leadership demands. But the progress we are making is hard-fought— albeit incremental—with budget “wins” we rightfully celebrate. Ohioans both understand and wildly support the evidence-informed policies necessary to make Ohio the best place to be a young child. Simply put, together we have been on a long journey to build a movement on behalf of all children, our families, and our communities, and the evidence of its growth is everywhere! The Governor’s proposed budget included many new policies and investments to benefit young children.

The Ohio House’s version of the budget also included thoughtful, child-centered input. And although frustrating that many of those ideas didn’t make it into the final budget, it is evidence that our legislative education efforts are working. We also saw an increase in professional and business organizations including child care and early learning in their own policy priorities, thereby lending their trusted influence to our cause. Further, Ohio saw an increase in press coverage on child care, early learning, mental health, and the unique needs of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. And we saw a substantial increase in the engagement of parents who desire to share their real-life challenges, as well as their hopes and dreams for their children. People from all walks of life are using their collective voices.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

In Ohio’s most recent biennial budget deliberation for the FY24-25 fiscal years, $287 million in new investments were secured for young children and families. This included the following investments in child care and early childhood education:

    • $30 million for child care infrastructure grants to increase infant and toddler child care capacity in communities with high infant mortality rates
    • An increase in publicly funded child care eligibility from 142% FPL to 145%.
    • $124 million for preschool, a historic investment that will serve an additional 11,525 low income 3- and 4- year olds in Ohio in community based child care settings (centers and family child care programs) and school based settings. The investment also has allowed for an increase in the individual grant amount and piloting of preschool for special populations.
    • A line-item veto by Governor DeWine that preserved Ohio’s quality child care system by preventing the exemption of most licensed, publicly funded child care programs from meeting Step Up to Quality, Ohio’s quality rating and improvement system, rating requirements.

The budget also created a new Department of Children and Youth which puts all early childhood programs except for Medicaid under one Department. In the Department’s first 90 days, they already fully implemented the new historic preschool investment with all new capacity being put out to the community, created a grant program to administer the child infrastructure grants and are holistically creating an updated regulatory and financing strategy for Step Up to Quality and publicly funded child care in addition to aligning licensing of child care and preschool. The Department also announced a new Professional Early Childhood Inclusion Credential under the Ohio PROMISE initiative to increase the capacity of early childhood professionals to meet the needs of children with disabilities and their families.

Budget investments included the following investments in maternal and young child health:

    • $101.5 million to support Help Me Grow home visiting and $32.2 million to support infant vitality efforts.
    • Continuous Medicaid coverage for babies and toddlers, birth through age three, keeping Ohio’s youngest Medicaid-eligible children accessing consistent health care services.
    • A path forward for Medicaid reimbursement of doula services so Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and their babies can benefit from this critical, non-clinical support.

More on Ohio’s budget policy and progress can be found here.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Ohio, Groundwork Ohio, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Child and
Maternal Health

Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health

Early Intervention (Age 0-3)


Home Visiting

Early Childhood Infrastructure


Ohio Early Childhood Policy Advocacy

Ohio Allies Launch Innovative Center for Family Voice as Part of Ongoing Work on Race and Rural Equity

Groundwork Ohio has announced plans to build a “center of excellence” dedicated to authentically engaging Ohio parents and families in the policies and practices that impact the healthy development of their children. The Center for Family Voice will explore best practices across the state and nation that successfully engage families in public services delivery to inform state, local, and programmatic policy development.

Read More »


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2023 Enacted Budgets, September 20, 2022.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: