HOPE Toledo’s Annual Report Reveals Promising Progress in Early Education

Rev. John Jones

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

HOPE Toledo, an organization dedicated to ensuring high-quality education from birth to career, recently unveiled its annual report, shedding light on the critical need for early childhood education in Lucas County.

Recent findings regarding HOPE Toledo’s Pre-K initiative have brought forth encouraging developments. With an enrollment of 300 children in the program, the organization continues to make strides in providing accessible early education opportunities to Toledo’s estimated 4000 four-year-olds.

“Statistics from the 2023 academic year indicate a notable 30.2% of children demonstrating readiness for kindergarten,” shared President and CEO, Rev. John C. Jones.

According to the annual report, over 80 percent of Toledo’s children begin kindergarten without essential skills for success, emphasizing the urgency for intervention. Despite this daunting statistic, HOPE Toledo’s efforts have yielded tangible progress. Impressively, just over a third of these children now demonstrate readiness for kindergarten, marking a significant improvement from previous years.

Rooted in the belief that education is the cornerstone of economic empowerment, HOPE Toledo’s mission extends from preschool to postsecondary and trade school, aiming to catalyze generational changes that uplift our families and community.

Originally conceived as Helping Our Population Educate (H.O.P.E.), the organization emerged from a collective desire to dismantle barriers and ensure that all students, regardless of background or zip code, have the opportunity to thrive academically. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, they’ve become a driving force in providing early childhood education through HOPE Toledo Pre-K and facilitating access to postsecondary training in college or trade schools through  HOPE Toledo Promise.

Rev. John C. Jones highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in expanding access to early education sharing, “We must emphasize the need for more public-private partnerships to ensure every four-year-old in Lucas County can access vital Pre-K programs.”

HOPE Toledo’s annual report gathering took place at All 4 Kids, heralded as Holland, Ohio’s premier 5-star rated children’s center. With experts affirming that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age five, it is clear that investing in early education becomes paramount for lifelong success.

As one of HOPE Toledo’s 21 esteemed preschool partners, All 4 Kids owner Camille Harris says, “We need to grab these children at an early age to help them develop physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively so they can be ready for kindergarten and beyond.”

During the gathering Toledo community leaders also responded to a recent report from ReadyNation, shedding light on the escalating economic consequences of Ohio’s childcare shortage. ReadyNation leverages the experience, influence and expertise of more than 2,000 business executives to promote public policies and programs that build a stronger workforce and economy. According to their report, Insufficient Infant-Toddler Child Care Costs Ohio $3.85 Billion Annually, Ohio’s crisis in infant and toddler childcare now imposes a staggering $3.85 billion burden on families, businesses and taxpayers annually, marking a significant increase from just four years ago when the estimated impact was less than half this amount.

The findings underscore the profound impacts of the childcare crisis, emphasizing the urgent need for expanded state investment to address the growing challenges. Community leaders are calling on policymakers to take decisive action to alleviate this burden on families and businesses, recognizing the pivotal role of strategic interventions in mitigating the adverse effects of the crisis.

“When we can set up a family with access to early education and childcare, now mom and dad, if they so choose, can both go to work,” said Rev. Jones.

Imagine a vast network of highways, each representing a neural connection. Every second during the first three years of life, over one million new lanes are constructed, paving the way for learning and growth. But what happens when these roads encounter rough terrain, lacking the proper supports like nurturing relationships and stable environments? These vital pathways become congested, hindering the journey toward language, literacy and math skills.

Ninety percent of a child’s brain develops by age five. Research paints a vivid picture of the challenges facing our youngest learners, revealing significant disparities in school readiness among children from different backgrounds. For too long, children from marginalized communities, including Black and Hispanic children, and those from low-income families, have been left stranded on the sidelines, grappling with gaps in education.

The significance of accessible and high-quality childcare and early education cannot be overstated, as highlighted by HOPE Toledo leaders. When working parents struggle to secure such provisions, the repercussions extend beyond individual families to impact the broader community and economy at large. The inability to access adequate childcare not only disrupts a child’s educational journey but also hampers parental workforce participation, leading to decreased productivity and economic strain.

Matt Geha, superintendent of Springfield Local Schools, underscored the long-term benefits of early education, highlighting its role in fostering competitiveness and equipping children with essential skills for the future job market. “The world is so competitive. From a job to college or whatever it may be. When you start a child in preschool you give them every opportunity to keep pace with their peers and also be successful providing all the opportunities that come with education.”

Amanda Goldsmith, vice president, Client and Community Relations Director at PNC, also holds a position on the board of Toledo Day Nursery. Reflecting on her own experiences, she recalled the challenges of balancing childcare costs while raising small children at the age of 27, underscoring the enduring struggle faced by many mothers today.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz echoed these sentiments, highlighting the disparity between Toledo and other major urban areas in Ohio, such as Columbus, Akron, Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati. While these cities already offer pre-K programs to four-year-olds, Toledo is striving to achieve similar access, emphasizing HOPE Toledo’s dedication to addressing this crucial need.

In a city where nearly 40 percent of young children live below the poverty line, the need for equitable access to preschool has never been more urgent.

With approximately 90 percent of Toledo Public School students and over half of those from Washington Local Schools qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, the gap in school readiness due to socio-economic factors is often apparent. By expanding affordable options, Toledo can empower kids to learn, parents to return to work, revitalize the economy, and pave the way for a brighter future for all.

HOPE Toledo’s annual report serves as a testament to the transformative power of early education and underscores a collective responsibility to ensure every child receives the foundation they need to thrive academically, socially, and economically.

Through partnerships with public schools, community providers, local agencies and community stakeholders, HOPE Toledo continues to level the playing field, offering tuition assistance, small classes, and family engagement opportunities to all children. They are poised to revolutionize school readiness outcomes and subsequent academic performance here in our Glass City. May this collective work remind us that education is the great equalizer; the key to unlocking a world of possibilities for every child.

Click here to read the full 2023 annual report: https://www.hope-toledo.org