COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates participated in a forum by Groundwork Ohio on Thursday, answering questions on supporting children and childcare workers.
Groundwork Ohio’s “Vote for Ohio Kids Leadership Forum” was not a debate. Rather, the candidates answered the same six questions, but hours apart. The questions were provided to each campaign ahead of time.
“If we’re going to be a state that cares about kids, we have got to be a state that cares about the people who provide for our kids,” gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley (D) said.
“My goal is they, every child, when they graduate from high school, will be on a pathway,” Governor Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said. “Whether that’s a college pathway, a pathway to trades.”
DeWine and Whaley laid out their plans to support schools, students and educators. DeWine said, since he has been in office, more than one billion dollars has gone to Ohio schools. He said early childhood development is one of the most important things to focus on.
“Taking the resources we have and investing them early is really the most bang for our buck and it’s the right thing to do,” DeWine said.
Whaley said long term investments from the state is important, both for schools and for childcare providers. She said increasing wages but making sure families don’t have to pay more on the backend is key.
“We have to be aggressive about it and be real,” Whaley said. “And use that funding, instead of giving tax cuts to the very wealthy, give it to our kids and the people who provide for our kids.”
DeWine said it is important to make sure kids are supported both in the classroom and out of it.
“You can’t just help the child, you have to, at the same time help the parent,” DeWine said.
“You cannot be about saying with a straight face that you care about Ohio families when you’re not giving Ohio moms and Ohio families the full choice of care that they deserve,” Whaley said.
Both DeWine and Whaley talked about how mental health should best be addressed both in and out of schools. They agree that the topic has to be de-stigmatized. Whaley said that means talking about mental health publicly and making sure kids hear from leaders and teachers that it is okay to seek help.
“I think having more wrap around services in our schools is so important so people can identify kids when they’re having trouble before they get to that point,” Whaley said. “And making sure we have mental health providers in all schools is really important.”
DeWine said he wants to be sure every Ohioan who needs help has access, no matter where they live, and he said treatment for mental health issues needs to be addressed with more urgency.
“Part of this is getting people to understand whether it’s a child or an adult, we have to treat behavioral health problems like we treat cancer, like we treat any other problem,” DeWine said. “It’s a medical problem and we have to deal with it that way.”
Whaley did make herself available for an interview after the forum, but DeWine did not. Whaley said, right now, this was the last scheduled event both she and DeWine will be at together before the election on Nov. 8.