A Look at The Toledo Black Agenda

A wide range of leaders in Toledo’s Black community have joined forces to put together a report on the challenges facing that community in six critical areas.

The report, The Toledo Black Agenda, a months-long project in the making, examines historic obstacles and current challenges in the areas of criminal justice, economic development, education, housing, health, workforce development.

The community leaders and experts were assembled by Lisa McDuffie, CEO of YWCA of Northwest Ohio and Robin Reese, CEO of Lucas County Children Services.

Now Toledo’s Black Agenda will be made available to local government agencies, along with a host of private and public companies and entities in order to gather community-wide support for the demands and suggestions proposed in the report.

We are printing excerpts from the report over the next few weeks. The following is an excerpt from the third pillar – the Education Pillar

The entire report can be read online at




Achieving quality education has been a struggle for Black Americans in this country since its inception.  However, we have seen glimpses of historical references that highlight the tenacity, necessity, and achievement of great strides dating back to educational leaders such as Fannie Jackson Coppin, Mary McLeod Bethune, Anna Julia Cooper, and the seminal Brown v. Topeka Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Education is the only organizational system in the United States that touches and has the propensity to touch every American citizen.  Therefore, it is pertinent in 2020, and beyond, that education be examined in its totality in the education of Black children considering the current political climate and Black Lives Matter movement. Black Americans continue to receive low quality education (opportunity/achievement gap, lower standardized test scores) in comparison to their White counterparts  CITATION Watss \l 1033 (Watson & McClellan, 2020).  The juxtaposition of education when comparing Black students with other students of comparable housing, parental education level, and parental income shows disparate discrepancy and are interconnected with American historical practices of systemic housing discrimination and segregated educationCITATION Del12 \t  \l 1033  (Delpit, 2012). Comparable statistics and circumstances levels out when controlling for systemic racism.  Therefore, we posit that when systemic racism is addressed in totality, there will be an increase in academic achievement, improvement of school culture, increased parental engagement, and other contributing factors that will sustain neighborhoods, communities, and localities.


The statistics are very important in an effort to contextualize the state of residents while offering a snapshot of the complexity of the responsibility of school districts as well as the municipalities in which the residents reside.  As stated, education as a system touches every American and every resident in Toledo, however, it must be noted that statistics such as poverty rates and housing valuation has a disparate impact on educational attainment and the resources allocated to achieve optimal levels of education.

Toledo Residents

In 2018-2019, the city of Toledo had approximately 274,973 residents. Of that 27.1% are Black, 74,242. Toledo’s population is declining between 1-3% annually. The median household income in Toledo in 2018 was $35,339, for Black Toledo residents, the median household income was $21,788, whereas the states median household income was $54,021. Toledo has poverty rate of 26.5%, whereas 37% of Black Toledo residents are living in poverty.  The median home value in Toledo in 2018 was $78,400 whereas the states median home value was $144,200 (   

12% of Toledo residents have a bachelor’s degree

.8% of Toledo residents have a doctorate degree

32.6% of Toledo residents have a high school diploma/GED equivalent

In the greater Toledo area, there are approximately 40,000 students enrolled in public and parochial schools.  Of that TPS, the 4th largest urban school district in Ohio enrolls 23,166 students whereas 13,056 are enrolled in parochial and approximately 3,583 enrolled in early literacy/pre-K programs.   TPS has a 65% minority population with Black students comprising 44%, totalling 10,251 students.  TPS as a district has 85% economically distressed population with Black students comprising 45%, totaling 9,044. (

The greater Toledo area also has robust parochial school system.  Approximately 13,056 are enrolled in local parochial schools.  Of that population, approximately 31% are minority and mostly Black.  The actual data set on Black students in parochial schools is an estimate because of varying reporting mechanisms in contrast to public data set required by local public-school districts.  However, approximately 85% of the minority students that attend parochial schools use the EdChoice voucher program provided through State of Ohio Department of Education.  The voucher program allocates approximately $4,650 towards parochial school tuition and fees.  The voucher does not cover 100% tuition and fees.  This allocation which is normally ascribed to local school districts is reduced by the number of students that exit the public-school system.

However, the local school district, TPS in this matter is still responsible for transportation and servicing of IEP’s of students that reside in their district with no increase in allocation of state budget.  Therefore, TPS is strained financially while still adhering to state mandates to service all students that reside in their district regardless of those students attend a TPS school.  A common practice and mandated by the state are that TPS school counselors are servicing students in parochial school districts by overseeing the management of IEP and 504 documentation in conjunction with TPS providing transportation to and from parochial schools.  It can be asserted that parochial schools are being subsidized by the state via TPS which in sum strains an economically distressed district.

The state data shows for the area states that 14% of all students have a learning disability, requiring a IEP or 504. These students have a 72% graduation rate.  These statistics encapsulate the local area. However, the data is unclear and unavailable regarding educational attainment, educational success, diversity, cultural competence or anti-racism that encompasses the educational experience within parochial schools.  Therefore our recommendations for educating Black students in Toledo ALL educating entities that are responsible for or have taken responsibility for educating Black students..

The Importance of Quality Pre-K

Research demonstrates that the early years (birth through age five) are among the most important phases for children’s cognitive and social development. Preschool programs have been shown to improve outcomes for young children throughout their lives. Accordingly, Pre-K programs are among our most effective public investments: research shows an economic return of up to $8.90 per dollar invested in Pre-K programs.[1]

Half the nation’s largest cities raise local funds dedicated to improving quality and/or access to Pre-K. All the major citywide Pre-K programs we examined during our research operate based on a public funding mechanism. Funding has chiefly been drawn from new sales taxes, city funds, school levies, or property taxes. Successful programs have a number of characteristics in common, including creating high quality settings to drive positive outcomes; ensuring access to high quality care; creating Pre-K to grade 3 alignment; engaging partners to ensure a successful mixed-delivery system; ensuring a system of continuous improvement; building in flexibility as the program evolves; focusing on service coordination; and instituting effective outreach practices.

Access to Quality Pre-K in Toledo

Toledo is home to about 4,000 4-year olds. Nearly 40% of these children live under the federal poverty level (FPL), which is only $25,100 for a family of 4, and 80% are in families under 200% of FPL. In 2018 only 18% of children, across the city, entered kindergarten “ready to learn” based on district Kindergarten readiness assessments.[2] Families with low incomes constantly struggle to afford the high cost of childcare, particularly high quality care, which includes a strong component of early learning curriculum-led instruction.[3] While existing funding sources are an important part of the current early childcare education (ECE) system[4]
,  they are not sufficient to help all families access child care that goes beyond safe and affordable care to provide quality early education that prepares their children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

Significant support for childcare in Toledo already exists, including publicly funded programs, philanthropies, and community organizations. Current funding totals about $27.5 million for 3- and 4-year olds, most of which derives from federal sources funneled through the state to local agencies. We estimate, however, the total cost to serve 3- and 4-year olds in high quality care would be $60 million.[5] Thus, less than half the total need is currently being met.  The city contains enough licensed center and family home child care slots – about 8,400 – to serve all 3- and 4- year olds. However, most of these slots are not high quality, which is defined as 3-, 4-, or 5-star ratings in the Ohio Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) system. We estimate that about 40% of these slots will be in high quality settings in late 2020. This proportion is likely to grow over time, as the state’s quality rating regulations require all licensed providers to be rated at least 3 stars in the SUTQ program by 2025. The implication for a new Pre-K program is that by 2025 all childcare providers in the city may meet the new programs quality requirements, thus providing enough quality-rated slots to serve all likely participants. However, funding will need to expand to keep pace with the number of available slots.


Toledo’s young children have high needs and poverty is endemic throughout city. Every major city in Ohio, and a growing number of cities across the country, now have a publicly funded Pre-K program. Investing in preschool is recognized as a non-partisan investment with long-term educational, social, and economic benefits. Moreover, new programs can build upon a firm research base to develop best practices for success. This is an ideal time for Toledo to pursue this landmark education milestone.

A recommended potential program model assumes an estimated program budget of $7 million. Tuition credits comprise about 75% of the program budget and the remaining percentage covers quality improvement and supports; evaluation and data support; outreach and marketing; and management and administration. The total program costs assume around 1,000 eligible participants in each age cohort (i.e, age 3 or age 4) at the start of the program, increasing over an eight-year period as more high quality preschool slots become available.

A “universal access” to Pre-K program focused on high-quality care to 4-year olds in Toledo is financially feasible within the proposed funding amount and would have a great positive community and economic impact in both the short term and the long term.