COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio education and business leaders gathered with Gov. Mike DeWine at the Athletic Club of Columbus Thursday to talk about the importance of literacy in Ohio schools.

Research shows Ohio students have fallen behind in reading, prompting the Ohio Business Roundtable and Ohio Excels, a non-profit that gives businesses a voice within the state’s education system, to host the “Literacy Matters” event.

“The data is clear: if kids get an opportunity to succeed, having those basics of reading skills are really important for that ability to be a productive person in life,” said Pat Tiberi, the president and CEO of Ohio Business Roundtable and Board Chair of Ohio Excels.

DeWine has proposed a new budget plan that he says will teach students the science of reading, which focuses on phonics and comprehension. If passed, DeWine said his budget would make it easier for school districts across the state to implement the science of reading approach.

“What we’re saying is the state will pay for teachers to be trained in this, to reimburse the teachers for their time, to pay them for their time if they aren’t using this science of reading now,” DeWine said.

Leaders at the event support the governor’s budget proposal, saying research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows kids who don’t learn how to read properly are much more likely to drop out of high school.

“Ohio, like most states, was struggling with literacy prior to the pandemic,” said Lisa Gray, president of Ohio Excels. “So, this really is an investment in our children and their futures, but also the future of Ohio.”

DeWine said he wants all Ohio students to have the same learning opportunities, with reading being the first crucial step.

“We don’t want to leave any child behind, nobody behind,” he said. “We want everybody to be able to participate in our society and have the ability to live whatever their version of the American Dream is.”