Published: September 25, 2021

A bridge to the future for Toledo’s children


We are at a critical moment. American Rescue Plan funds that can support the education and care of young children are flowing to Greater Toledo counties, cities, and schools.

It is an opportunity to help children recover educationally from the pandemic, an investment that will produce far-reaching results.

Enormous sums are coming: $180 million for the city of Toledo, $120 million for Toledo Public Schools, and $80 million for Lucas County. Some of these resources can be used to help children recover from economic and educational inequities the novel coronavirus has worsened.

This is essential if children are to learn the skills the future demands.


The city, county, and TPS can collaborate with HOPE Toledo and other organizations to get our children off to a strong start, leading to a stronger future for our community.

Today the good jobs go to the well-educated, but fewer than 20 percent of Toledo adults have at least a bachelor’s degree.

A strong educational start is essential if Toledo is to grow, attract, and keep good jobs now or in the future.

Working together, Toledo can use ARP funds to expand the high-quality preschool, child care, health, and social services our children need to recover. Then, we must find sustainable public-private funding to give every young child the true opportunity for success.

It is essential. Too many Toledo neighborhoods are steeped in poverty. Eighty percent of Toledo’s children start school without the skills to learn effectively. They start far behind kids from families with greater means.

High-quality preschool narrows these gaps and puts children on more equal footing.

This enables them to progress in reading and math, learn to work well in groups, and graduate from high school with skills for career and college success.

Priority One is investing ARP dollars in expanding Toledo’s public school and community-based preschools, with a systematic plan to sustain services and funding accountability.

Quality is a function of teaching, curriculum, learning environment, and child well-being.

ARP dollars can jump start social and health services for young learners; professional development and salaries for early childhood educators; and full-day instruction, excellent curriculum, and small classes.

Priority Two is strengthening community-based child-care centers, many of which are small businesses hurt by the pandemic. We can rebuild capacity using ARP funds to bring these centers back and enhance their services.

If not, Toledo parents cannot go back to work, and kids can’t thrive. The local economy, education, and family incomes will all suffer.

Priority Three is working together. Only collaboration across sectors and using ARP as a down-payment toward longer-term funding can prevent the children, work force, and community from falling further behind.

The crisis will not go away without a fight. Concerted action is essential and has produced sustainable funding for preschool in other Ohio cities like Dayton, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.

We can do it here too.

The road to a stronger future begins with a stronger start. Toledo can use ARP funding to begin building a shared, sustainable early childhood-education system for the city and its children.

Rev. John C. Jones is president of HOPE Toledo and Elizabeth Gaines is executive director of Children’s Funding Project.