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Increases to Early Childhood Left Out of the 2024 City of Chicago Budget

In this blog post, Madison Ezell, policy analyst, shares reflections on the lack of increased early childhood investments in the 2024 City of Chicago budget.

Madison Ezell December 18, 2023
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

On November 15, Mayor Brandon Johnson passed his first budget for the City of Chicago, naming it the “People’s Budget.” In many ways, this budget marks a huge success for the Mayor and represents many of his campaign promises to invest in people and support structures that have seen historical neglect. For example, the final budget contains resources and funding for public safety, including re-entry services for formerly incarcerated people, mental health and infrastructure, and one of the most topical investments was a $30 million allocation from state grants to the Department of Family Support Services (DFSS) to support newly arrived migrant families. Despite these investments, there are no direct increases to early childhood education.

Like past years, this budget season was filled with challenges, and most pressing was the fact that it is one of the last that will include support from the American Rescue Plan Act’s temporary investments. These COVID-era funds support a variety of city programs including vital prenatal-five services. As we approach this fiscal cliff, City-funded early childhood initiatives remain level-funded despite recommendations from 15 key early childhood stakeholders advocating for additional investments. The Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, the Chicago Early Childhood Integrated Data System (CECIDS), Family Connects Chicago and the Chicago Early Learning hotline did not receive an increase in funding heading into next year.

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And yet, the needs of Chicago’s early childhood system continue to grow. The workforce crisis continues to dampen the City’s ability to provide high-quality early childhood education to learners aged birth to five, with lack of pay parity between center-based and school-based teachers making recruitment and retention efforts that much more difficult. The Chicago Early Learning platform and community collaborations remain one of the key ways parents access information about programs and services available to their family. Family Connects Chicago consistently sees overwhelmingly positive results from utilizing evidence-based practice to support families with newborns in navigating City resources. We will continue our advocacy to see these resources appropriately funded, expanded and accessible to caregivers of young children in Chicago.

Despite the lack of additional investment in early childhood in this budget, Mayor Johnson has made his commitment to education and early childhood clear both through his campaign and in actions he has taken in office to-date. During the Early Childhood Town Hall hosted in September by Every Child Ready Chicago, Mayor Johnson declared that “early childhood is a priority for the Mayor’s Office.” We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with the Johnson administration to continue building on previous efforts to increase access to and quality of early childhood programs and services in Chicago. Start Early remains steadfast that our earliest learners, from birth to age five, should remain one of the City’s policy priorities for strategic increased investment.

About the Author

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Madison Ezell

Policy Analyst, Illinois Policy

Madison Ezell is a Policy Analyst on the Illinois Policy team at Start Early, where she focuses on systems change work to build an early childhood system that works for children, families and providers in the City of Chicago.

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