The Republican and the Democrat running for governor are laying out their plans for how to help children succeed. Both Mike DeWine and Rich Cordray say it all begins before the kids are even born. However Cordray sees one clear difference between his take and that of his opponent.
Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Mike DeWine sparked the conversation about specific policies that help children develop and thrive during a big agenda rollout late last month, 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. We can only do that by preventing these problems in the first place,” he said.
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% of the poverty level to 150% - 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," said DeWine. "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 it.
Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Rich 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. But a few days later, Cordray walked through his plans to help young Ohioans.
He says 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.
“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," said Cordray. "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 adding that the state could follow their lead by working with local community groups and private companies.
One glaring difference
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,” he said.
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.
Cordray asserts that more than 700,000 people have received health care coverage under Medicaid expansion and 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. That just is common sense, including expectant mothers,” he said.
But 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 if he were to face what’s currently a Republican-dominated legislature.