‘Day Without Child Care’ Protesters Tell Ohio Lawmakers: ‘Show Us The Money!’

COLUMBUS, Ohio – More than 250 child care centers in Ohio closed Monday to mark the third annual Day Without Child Care, aimed at highlighting efforts to make child care more affordable and increase wages for providers, organizers of the effort said .

Many of those childcare teachers and parents of children in childcare spent part of the day in Columbus demonstrating in front of the Ohio Statehouse. The protesters called on lawmakers to enact a variety of reforms and policy changes, although most had a common theme.

“What did Jerry McGuire say?” said Nefree Cook, a child care provider from Cincinnati, on the steps of the Statehouse.

“Show me the money!” the crowd of a few hundred people shouted back.

“That’s what we need – show us the money!” Cook replied.

Monday’s Statehouse meeting comes as Ohio and other states are in the midst of a child care crisis. Ohio parents, on average, pay more for childcare than what they pay in rent, while — seemingly paradoxically — many providers cannot offer wages high enough to retain staff.

While Ohio lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun paying more attention to the problem, under pressure from business groups that say it threatens the state’s growing job market, speaker after speaker at Monday’s meeting said the problem will persist until there is a large influx. of government financing.

The CEO (Caring Economy Organizing) Project, a division of the left-leaning Ohio Organizing Collaborative, said in a news release that it organized Monday’s Statehouse meeting to call, among other things:

  • Increasing income eligibility for publicly funded child care in Ohio from up to 142% of the federal poverty level ($39,405 per year for a family of four) to those making up to 300% of the poverty level, or $83,250 per year for a family of four
  • Increasing child care subsidies in Ohio so that families who qualify for assistance have access to the lowest-cost 75% of child care centers in their region. Currently, Ohio’s basic benefits only cover the cheapest 35% of child care options.
  • Offering a refundable state tax credit of up to $1,000 per year to lower- and middle-income families with children
  • Making the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit refundable, meaning lower-income Ohioans who qualify would receive a refund even if they don’t owe state income taxes.
  • Providing more money overall for state child care programs.

It remains to be seen what all of these initiatives, if adopted, would cost, although they would require hundreds of millions of dollars at the very least.

“We want the state to invest in our families in an equitable way,” Tami Lunan, director of the CEO Project, said in an interview. “That’s the most important thing we want to bring out.”

Monday’s meeting focused specifically on helping child care providers who are women and/or racial minorities; the majority of attendees were women of color.

Lunan said rally organizers plan to hold similar rallies on a “much larger scale” in the future.

Closing child care centers for the day, Lunan said, shows people how important child care is and why it’s worth fighting to improve the child care system. Providers, she said, make sure to tell parents why they’re closing that day — in part to convince them to come out to protest themselves.

“The idea is to show the economic impact,” she said. “We believe this is the only way these women who are entrepreneurs will be seen.”

Lunan said child care advocates are pushing lawmakers to include their policy goals in next year’s two-year state budget plan.

Jeremy Pelzer covers state politics and policy for and The Plain Dealer.