SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Hundreds of people from across Illinois were in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday advocating for early childhood investments.
Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton joined We The Village, Raising Illinois, and Child Care for All in asking lawmakers to stand up for the state’s youngest children.
Pritzker hopes Democrats and Republicans will support his Smart Start Illinois plan with investments in pre-school, child care, early intervention, and early childhood facilities. The governor is calling for $250 million in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to launch the program.
“From eliminating pre-school deserts to growing child care to a new level in Illinois, we’re going to open up opportunity for parents to get the best education and care for their young children,” Pritzker told advocates.
Pritzker said Illinois can create 5,000 new seats in pre-schools each year through a $75 million early childhood block grant. His plan also includes $130 million for childcare workers to receive a raise and fund workforce compensation contracts for stability within the industry.
The Smart Start Illinois plan features a $40 million boost for early intervention programs to stabilize services for the state’s most vulnerable children and families. $5 million could also be allocated for the Department of Human Services home visit program to reach more families who need support. Smart Start Illinois also calls for a $20 million investment for the Department of Human Services to revamp the payment system for childcare providers.
“Advocates, your voice and presence here today is crucial to making the case for early childhood, it’s value and funding,” said Illinois Action for Children CEO April Janney.
Pritzker hopes lawmakers will agree on a $100 million investment to improve buildings and facilities for early childhood providers. The proposed funding would double the state’s initial investment in the early childhood construction grant program. Pritzker has proposed $70 million to increase participation in the child care assistance program after raising the income eligibility limit to include families with incomes below 225% of the federal poverty level, roughly $55,935 for a family of three and $67,500 for a family of four.
“In Illinois, we are family,” Stratton said. “And families take care of one another right? The children across the state of Illinois are our babies. When we build them up to be strong, resilient and well rounded adults, then everyone thrives. Know that our early childhood professionals, who are predominately women, who are predominantly people of color, they are family too because they come to work every day to foster a love of learning that children will hold on to for the rest of their lives.”
The Senate and House will hold a joint hearing about the Smart Start Illinois plan Wednesday morning.
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April 18, 2023 at 07:48PM