© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate DeWine Unveils Children and Family Initiatives

photo of Mike DeWine
While DeWine's opponents did not directly critique the plans, Lt. Gov. candidate Betty Sutton pointed to DeWine's record in Congress as a reason to be skeptical.

The Republican candidate for governor has released what he says is a plan to invest in Ohio’s kids, families and future. But Democrats are saying his record says otherwise.

“This is what I’m passionate about. This is what I believe matters most for the future of our state. And it’s why I’m running for governor.”

After a similar event in Cleveland earlier in the day, Mike DeWine spoke to an audience at a church-based day care and education center in Columbus. After citing a long list of statistics on kids in poverty, he unveiled a slate of plans that mixed new ideas with previous proposals on early childhood development, school safety, infant mortality and fighting the opioid crisis.

DeWine announced he’d push for voluntary home visits to new mothers, up to $400 million more in early childhood programs for low-income families, a cabinet-level director of children’s initiatives, prioritizing abatement of lead paint and anti-hunger and childhood obesity programs and a review of the foster care system. 

“The DeWine-Husted Administration will provide every single public school student in Ohio with access to a mental health professional," DeWine added. We need these professionals to help kids who want to harm themselves or do harm to others.”

DeWine said every policy and every program would be looked at for how it will affect kids and how they would benefit – which he said will fundamentally change the state for decades.

“Families will be more prosperous, They will be happier. Our standard of living will go up. There will be less crime.

"There will be more high school graduates, fewer prisoners, more students receiving industry credentials, more college graduates, more businesses will find workers.  But most importantly, for these kids and for their families, there will be hope,” he said.

Democrats and activists have their doubts
DeWine didn’t take any questions after the event. But outside the church, two education activists were ready to talk about what they say is DeWine’s record on children’s issues.

One of them is Melissa Cropper, who heads the Ohio Federation of Teachers. She said she’s concerned that DeWine has said he wants to redesign Medicaid expansion because it’s unsustainable as it is.

“When he says he doesn’t support Medicaid expansion or that we need to make extreme changes to Medicaid expansion, we feel like that’s going to have a huge impact on our children – it’s going to impact their ability to learn. So any education agenda needs to include a health-care agenda that makes sure that our children have the supports that they need, the health care that they need in order to be successful,” she said.

Democrats say 26,000 Ohio children could lose health care coverage if Medicaid expansion is rolled back, and that 626,000 kids could lose coverage if a lawsuit by a group of Republican state attorneys general to overturn the pre-existing conditions provision of the Affordable Care Act is successful. DeWine did not join that suit.

DeWine's opponents respond
DeWine’s opponent for governor, Richard Cordray, didn’t comment on the proposal, and hasn’t released a full-on children’s agenda. But his running mate Betty Sutton said in a conference call they’ve put out several proposals on the issue, such as universal pre-kindergarten. And Sutton said while in Congress DeWine repeatedly voted for cuts to public education, after school programming and Head Start while supporting tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Mike DeWine is running to the cameras now, now that it’s campaign season, but time after time he’s put favors to political cronies and special interests ahead of the health, education and well-being of our children,” she said.

Sutton also said DeWine did nothing as attorney general with regard to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the online charter school that closed in January because it couldn’t pay tens of millions the state says it owes back for inflating student attendance. DeWine has said anyone found to have manipulated the charter school system must be held to account.

Editor's note:  This story has been updated to correct a typo in the headline.