Past research has shown that money spent on youth development saves or generates $7 in the long run for every $1 spent now, Pritzker told reporters at an embargoed preview briefing yesterday.
“This is a win-win,” he said. “State support will make Illinois the best place in the country to raise children.”
Under the plan, $75 million will be spent to create 5,000 new preschool spots, with a goal of 15,000 more by 2027. That should be sufficient to provide a spot for every child who needs one, Pritzker said.
Another $130 million will go toward hiring more staff for pre-kindergarten programs and to better compensate their workers, with pay rising from $8 an hour a couple of years ago and $13 an hour now to an expected $17 to $19 an hour over the next four years.
Also on the list: $40 million for early intervention programs to help vulnerable kids and $5 million for an expanded home visiting program for needy families. And $100 million for improved buildings and facilities will be made available under the state’s Rebuild Illinois capital program, Pritzker said, with $70 million more for direct child assistance grants, enough to cover 20,000 children.
Pritzker shrugged off suggestions from Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who oversees state expenditures, that Illinois should avoid starting new programs now, given economic weakness and hints that a recession is near, and instead focus on proven winners, such as the popular MAP college scholarship program.
“Forecast revenue coming into Fiscal ‘27 is continuing to be good,” said the governor, and the budgets he has implemented “have been conservative.” Besides, he added, Mendoza’s duties do not include making revenue forecasts.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, like Pritzker, once promised to find spots in pre-kindergarten care programs for every child in need, but failed to deliver. Budgets were unbalanced then,” Pritzker replied when reminded of his predecessor’s experience. “Our budget is balanced and we’re running a surplus. . . .We finally have our fiscal house in order and we ought to be investing in our future”
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February 15, 2023 at 06:58AM