Earlier today, Governor J.B. Pritzker introduced his administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) budget framework, which includes a welcome increase of 10% in state funding for preschool, evidence-based home visiting services and center-based infant-toddler programs funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
Unfortunately, the budget proposal maintains current funding levels for other key early childhood programs, like Early Intervention (EI), the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and IDHS-funded home visiting programs. A more holistic approach to funding early childhood is needed to ensure the state can address the many disparities currently experienced by expecting families and those with young children based on factors like race, income and geography.
“To have the early childhood system our youngest learners deserve, Illinois must approve meaningful increases in state funding every year for the core programs and services families with infants, toddlers and preschoolers need,” Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy, said. “We thank Governor Pritzker for his thoughtful education budget, and look forward to working with the Illinois General Assembly to increase funding for the remaining key early childhood programs by 10%, particularly those operated by the Department of Human Services.”
Start Early believes we must build an early care and education system that provides young children and their families with high-quality educational and child development services and supports, beginning prenatally. Only with annual funding increases will we have a system that is resourced to improve the earliest days of a new baby’s life, to ensure young children with disabilities and developmental delays receive the supports they need to thrive, and to provide quality care to families facing considerable challenges.
Despite the notable appropriations approved annually by the General Assembly, early childhood services in Illinois remain woefully underfunded and programs face a critical workforce shortage, fueled heavily by low wages. The final report published by the Pritzker administration’s Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding states the problem plainly: billions of additional dollars in state and federal funds will be needed over time. The state must make a meaningful down-payment in FY 2023 to build toward a system that serves all children and their families effectively – from birth through kindergarten entry.
Today’s budget proposal comes on the heels of many praiseworthy actions taken by the Pritzker administration over the past two years to support early childhood programs during the global pandemic. Without initiatives like the Child Care Restorations Grants, the Child Care Workforce Bonus and the new Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grants, the state’s early childhood system may have crumbled. That said, these short-term programs funded with federal relief dollars do not translate to the kinds of permanent, systemic improvements the state so desperately needs.
Start Early is eager to partner with the legislature and the administration to build the early care and education system that works for every child in Illinois.