Policy Priorities

Ohio Excels actively works to shape policy, backed by data and best practices, that can improve educational outcomes for all students.

Ohio’s future and the future success of our students, families, and communities is determined by the knowledge and skills of our citizens. We know that improving the quality of education – from early childhood through higher education – provide students a better chance to succeed in a changing economy and will ultimately help Ohio businesses grow and innovate, giving Ohio a competitive advantage in the world marketplace.

The 2023 policy priorities below address the most pressing issues and target the most impactful strategies for helping students graduate ready to succeed in the workforce and close the skills gap for employers in the short and long term.

Early Childhood Education: Expanding Access and Quality 

Learning begins before children enter kindergarten. Unfortunately, so do achievement gaps. The state should make high-quality early childhood education opportunities available for more students, especially for students who are economically disadvantaged, to give them a strong foundation for learning success.

  • Education Opportunities: Ohio Excels will continue to engage with other early childhood advocates and policymakers in 2023 to ensure more students have the opportunity to receive high-quality early childhood education, especially children from low-income families. This means raising the income threshold from 142% to 200% of the federal poverty level, which corresponds to a change from $37,630 to $53,000 for a family of four.
  • High-Quality Expectations: Ohio Excels will advocate for sensible changes to streamline the Step Up to Quality program while maintaining a commitment to quality expectations. Additional work will be needed to ensure that early childhood education providers can build a pipeline of talent and retain their staff.
  • Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA): Ohio Excels will advocate to keep administering the KRA, which provides a standard measure of early childhood outcomes and kindergarten students’ individual strengths and opportunities.

K-12 Education: Accelerating, Funding, and Diversifying Learning Opportunities

Ohio Excels believes there is no more important role in education than ensuring students have a strong foundation in reading to be successful in school, work, and life. Ohio’s school funding system should provide appropriate resources for supporting reading excellence and promoting equity, choice, and the expectation for continuous improvement of student performance.

  • Early and Sustained Literacy: Ohio Excels will proactively advocate for a comprehensive strategy to provide additional supports for students and educators. Ohio Excels believes policymakers should ensure students leave elementary school reading at grade level and stay proficient readers for the rest of their school experience. Ohio Excels will also resist efforts to eliminate the Third Grade Reading Guarantee without a comprehensive package of reading reforms that will better ensure reading success.
  • School Funding: Ohio Excels will continue to support legislators as they evaluate the impact of the newly implemented school funding formula and develop ways to improve the formula. Ohio Excels will prioritize a formula that provides adequate, equitable, and stable funding to meet the educational needs of Ohio’s diverse student population and ultimately drives improved student outcomes.
  • School Choice: Ohio Excels will advocate for equitable funding for charter schools so all types of public schools receive the funds they need to meet their students’ needs and close resource gaps between school types. Ohio Excels will also support the expansion and codification of high-performing charter school funding.
  • Computer Science: Ohio Excels will push for guaranteeing access to computer science coursework for all students in Ohio due to its significance as a critical component of workforce readiness. This support will include opportunities for additional professional development and incentives for educators to be able to teach computer science as well as a long-term computer science course graduation requirement aligned to industry needs.
  • Education Leadership: Ohio Excels believes that the state has a critical role in setting a vision and leading Ohio’s system of districts and schools. However, the current structure of governance with an elected and appointed State Board of Education that has little policymaking experience has prevented clear lines of authority, aligned policies, fiscal responsibility, and ultimately accountability for the success or failure of Ohio’s education system. Ohio Excels supports transitioning the Ohio Department of Education to a cabinet-level agency led by a director appointed by the governor and significantly limiting the role of the State Board of Education.

Higher Education: Increasing Accessibility, Affordability and Completion 

Ohio Excels’ goal is to increase the number of Ohioans with high-value credentials and postsecondary degrees in order to access high-paying careers and help close the workforce gap in Ohio. Ohio’s higher education systems need to be more accessible, affordable, and focused on completion and retention of graduates.

  • FAFSA Completion: Ohio Excels will advocate for policies that increase the state’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rate, including a FAFSA graduation requirement with a parent opt-out. Accompanying the new requirement will be additional professional development for educators and financial incentives for schools and districts.
  • Need-Based Aid: Ohio Excels will advocate to increase the overall amount of funding for need-based aid for students at technical centers, colleges, and universities to help students afford the full cost of attendance.
  • Stranded Credit: Ohio Excels will highlight the lessons learned from the (Re)Connect to College pilot and seek to encourage and enable more institutions to help students access stranded credit and small-debt forgiveness at institutions statewide.
  • Emergency and Last Dollar Scholarships: Ohio Excels and our higher education partners will explore ways to remove small financial barriers that keep students from completing their degree or credential by arranging for emergency aid or last dollar scholarships.

Career Pathways: Preparing Emerging Talent

Ohio Excels believes that K-12 and higher education pathways should provide students with high-quality coursework and real-world experiences that prepare them for success in college, career and life.

  • Career Exposure: Ohio Excels will advocate for career exposure and curriculum for all students and for it to start much earlier and occur more often throughout a student’s K-12 education experience, not just high school and not just one time a year.
  • Work-Based Learning: Ohio Excels will seek resources and incentives to encourage employers to offer and expand work-based learning opportunities. This will include income-tax credits for paid internships, mitigation for work-based learning barriers such as insurance issues, and other related issues.
  • Industry Credentials: Ohio Excels will support efforts to better identify high-value industry credentials, make the credentials more available to all Ohioans, and track data related to the credentials. This includes engaging employers on which credentials are most in-demand and supporting programs like TechCred and the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program for high school students.
  • Return On Investments: Ohio Excels will advocate for a return on investment study for in-demand careers that matches the necessary preparation costs and projected income payback. This would include studying specific pathways, including career technical education pathways, adult technical center training, certificates, apprenticeships, and 2-year and 4-year degrees.

Workforce and Partnerships: Connecting Emerging Talent to the Workforce

Ohio Excels believes that meaningful partnerships between educators and employers will open opportunities for students to begin and advance in career pathways, ultimately leading to high-paying, in-demand jobs. However, policymakers, students, families and other partners need up-to-date workforce outcome data to make this a reality for more Ohioans.

  • Workforce Data: Ohio Excels will advocate for greater connections between public data systems so that Ohio can learn more about the long-term impact of policy decisions on students after high school, whether they go to college, get a job, or join the military. This will allow the state to identify, evaluate, and communicate with students and stakeholders the real-world outcomes for credentials, career pathways, and schools.
  • Business Advisory Councils: Ohio Excels will continue to raise the profile of these local partnerships by celebrating high-quality councils and – with the Ohio Department of Education – supporting other councils and school districts interested in improving their connections to the business community.
  • Regional Education Partnerships: Ohio Excels will deepen its support of regional education partnerships that span early childhood through higher education, all with the goal of increasing educational attainment in their region. Advocacy will include continued funding in the state budget to stand up these programs in communities not currently served and to build a statewide support network for the partnerships.
  • Broadband: Ohio Excels will continue to support the work of the Ohio Broadband and 5G Partnership initiative of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to build strong career pathways and ensure that all areas of the state have broadband access to increase education, health, and employment opportunities.