The Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty: Work Continues as the Committee Hears from National Expert

On Thursday, September 14, the Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty (STFEP) heard a presentation from Dr. Matt Weyer, early childhood education senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  Dr. Weyer focused his testimony on the effects of poverty on school-age children, opportunity gaps, high-quality pre-kindergarten, and what other states around the nation are doing through policy to address the barriers to education that face students living in poverty.

Presenting both federal and state data, Dr. Weyer emphasized that one in four children under the age of five in Ohio are living in poverty, but that number rises to a staggering 46 percent for minorities according to The Ohio Poverty Report.  In fact, a June report from the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute describes 43 percent of children are “stuck” at the bottom quintile, allowing for very little upward mobility from generations of poverty.

Dr. Weyer touched on many stressors that impact the lives of children living in poverty and how those stressors affect critical parts of students’ academic lives.  Barriers such as hunger, neglect, and violence, to name a few, have strong impacts on children’s school performance and attendance, creating a ripple effect that impacts students’ academic performance for years to come.

In his testimony, Dr. Weyer referenced the outcomes that have been demonstrated by states and communities adopting universal high-quality Pre-K, highlighting the importance of high-quality education standards and citing a conservative return on investment of 2.5:1 or 4:1.  He also warned of the redundancy of curriculum that impacts students who were exposed to high-quality Pre-K versus those students who enter kindergarten without high-quality Pre-K, noting potential diminishments to the gains made by those students in Pre-K caused by teachers having to target the students who do not have as high of educational attainment.

The committee and members of the audience had a significant number of questions, focusing on class size, curriculum redundancy, and the need for accessible data around the cost each district spends per student.  The Council of State Governments provided written testimony to the committee.

More information about the task force can be found here, in a recent The Center for Community Solutions Blog.