All children have the right to a quality education. After all, education is the pathway to so many positive outcomes in terms of economic stability and good health. However, not all children in Ohio are ready to learn, have access to quality educational experiences, or face barriers to realizing education opportunity.
Quality Education Experiences
In the past year, children throughout the Ohio – throughout our country – experienced school very differently. Many engaged in remote and distance learning and hybrid learning. During this time, many children and families have experienced significant disruptions in their learning resulting from lack of technology – devices, internet access, or inability to purchase subscriptions. However, a variety of programs and services from school districts, the state of Ohio, and federal grants served to remove these barriers. Despite these supports there are still continued challenges with chronic absenteeism, student engagement, and making sure that all children have the tools they need to thrive and learn.
Whole Child Wellbeing
There is a saying that “You have to Maslow before you Bloom” which references the importance of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in a child’s ability to learn. The research is clear – children who are hungry, sleep deprived, stressed, suffering emotionally, are not ready to learn. In fact, the effects of stress and constant stress – also referred to as toxic stress – can rewire a child’s brain and inhibit the growth and development in certain parts of the brain. In these cases, the parts of the brain that are critical for physical survival are prioritized. However, the other important concept to keep in mind is that the brain is malleable. In other words, as a child grows and develops into adolescence there are critical periods where the brain can be rewired and this window of time extends through an adults early twenties.
Protect Life Skills, Equity, and Healing in Ohio Schools: Prioritize Social-Emotional Learning to Support Ohio Students
October 8, 2021
Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future, centers around a singular vision for prek-12 education that “each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient, lifelong learner who contributes to society.”
Achieving this vision for our children hinges on the critical interplay between four equal learning domains: Foundational Knowledge & Skills; Well-Rounded Content; Leadership & Reasoning; and Social-Emotional Learning. Each of these domains plays a unique role in a child’s education and bears equal weight in the wellbeing of every student in school and in life beyond K-12.
While each of these domains have come under critical focus during the pandemic with concern about the impacts of remote learning, social-emotional learning (or SEL) is a domain that has been receiving a lot of attention.
One reason is because being equipped with social-emotional learning skill sets is critically important during times of stress, uncertainty, and crisis, especially for young people. The very social-emotional learning competencies that help children learn and grow every day – such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, decision-making, and what we call “life skills” more generally – can also help them navigate the complex realities that have complicated their daily lives before, but especially since, the pandemic started.
Read more here.
The State of School Discipline in Ohio
June 9, 2021
By Alison Paxson, Policy & Communications Associate
Every child contributes to the vibrancy and success of our communities. As adults, it is our job to make sure that children have what they need to thrive and flourish into adulthood – including access to health care, nutrition, safety, economic security, and good schools.
Part of a longtime organizational focus on education equity, the following issue brief presents updated data, research, analysis, and trends on the state of school discipline, school safety, and educational opportunity in Ohio, building off previous reports including,, Zero Tolerance and Exclusionary School Discipline Policies Harm Students and Contribute to the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (2012); School Discipline Policies and the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (2017), and School Resource Officers: Recommendations for Maximizing School Safety and Minimizing Risks to Ohio Children (2018).
CDF-Ohio Testifies in Support of Whole Child Wellbeing and Protecting the Student Wellness and Success Funds in HB 110
May 7, 2021
What do Ohio Students Need to Thrive? Parents Respond.
The dual crisis of pandemic and economic downturn has meant increased stress and trauma not only for adults but for the children they care for as well. In recent months, schools and policymakers across the country have come together to figure out how to return children to the classroom. There are concerns about unfinished learning and children falling academically behind.
However, in all these very important conversations, we must also keep sight of the fact that children also have social and emotional needs. In fact, many behavioral health experts have even sounded the alarm that children returning schools must be screened for health needs and there must be a focus on socialization, emotional health, and stress.
The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio recently partnered with the Ohio Parent Teacher Association to learn more about what parents want for their children as they return to school and as schools consider what instructional and non-instructional needs should be prioritized and addressed.
Join us for our virtual townhall meeting on Tuesday, April 27 from 7PM-8PM to learn more about our findings. Register here!
Missed the Forum? Check out the Recording!
Fair School Funding Plan: A Call to Action to Invest in an Equitable School Funding Model That Does Right by Ohio’s Children & Our Future
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 7PM-8PM – Register Here
Did you miss the event? You can watch the recorded townhall Here.
The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio partnership with the League of Women Voters Ohio will host a panel of experts to discuss equitable public school funding on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at 7 p.m. Learn about the Fair School Funding Plan and its focus on creating an equitable, comprehensive, transparent funding model that has potential to transform public education for 1.7 million children across Ohio.
The Fair School Funding Plan is an equitable solution to Ohio’s unconstitutional school funding system. Also known as HB 1, this plan critically reduces our state’s overreliance on local property taxes to fund school districts and brings state investment to local communities to ensure all Ohio children and families have access to the educational resources and experiences they need to thrive.
For this virtual forum, a panel of school funding experts and community voices will weigh in on critical issues facing Ohio’s school funding system, including the issues plaguing our existing system that contribute to educational inequity and opportunity gaps, the core elements of the Fair School Funding Plan that aim to tackle these issues, and the collective advocacy we can all engage in to promote the passage of a more equitable school funding model.
Susan Kaeser, Education Specialist, League of Women Voters of Ohio
Dr. Tracy Najera, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio
John Patterson, Former State Representative (D-Jefferson) District 99
Marlon Styles, Jr., Superintendent, Middletown City School District
Ryan Pendleton, Treasurer / Chief Financial Officer
Akron Public Schools
Thomas Hosler, Superintendent, Perrysburg Schools
Katie Johnson, Deputy Executive Director, Ohio Association of School Business Officials
Steve Dyer, Director of Government Relationships, Ohio Education Association
Dale DeRolph & Nathan DeRolph
Read some of our recent articles on this topic:
Posted April 2021, Ohio School Boards Association Journal
In this recent article published in the Ohio School Boards Association Journal, Tracy Najera discusses “returning to normal” for children post-pandemic and how we have learned many important lessons during this pandemic.
Posted on February 12, 2021
By Alison Paxson
Posted on January 22, 2021
By Alison Paxson
Posted January 7, 2021
By Alison Paxson
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