Child Plays on Playground

Investing in the Early Years is Essential

In this blog post, Jonathan Doster, director of Illinois legislative affairs at Start Early outlines why the state legislature must invest in the health and sustainability of our early care and education system, now more than ever before.

Jonathan Doster April 12, 2021
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

Spring has sprung in Illinois, which means the Illinois General Assembly is busy building the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Now more than ever before, the state legislature must invest in the health and sustainability of our early care and education system. The public health crisis wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the needs of families, certainly among those already lacking equitable services and opportunities. It has also brought into sharp relief the essential nature of the work performed by early childhood professionals – workers whose efforts are central to the well-being of children, families and communities.

Fortunately, we know where we need to go. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding and the Prenatal to Three Initiative offer ambitious plans for how to fund and structure our state’s system to ensure all children, birth to age 5, have access to the highest quality care. But, we need more public funding to turn these plans into action.

Time is of the essence, and this spring session presents a great opportunity for the legislature to direct additional state and federal funding to early childhood programs and its workforce.

We ask the state to:

  • Increase funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant by $50 million, with a significant portion of these funds ($30 million) to be used for increased workforce compensation.
  • Increase funding for the Early Intervention program by $25 million to improve provider reimbursement rates and extend services for children who turn age 3 over the summer.
  • Increase funding for voluntary home visiting programs by $4 to increase wages for home visitors and to expand access to doula services.
  • Invest significant state and federal funds into the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to help providers stay in business and to increase staff compensation.

Our goal is simple: make Illinois the best place in the country for young children. Let’s get to work.

This blog post is a component of Illinois Childhood Advocacy Week, a week of full of opportunities for providers, parents and caregivers to share with their legislators that early education is essential—now more than ever as we rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.

About the Author

Johnathan Doster Headshot

Jonathan Doster

Director, Legislative Affairs, Illinois Policy

Jonathan Doster is the Director of Legislative Affairs. With colleagues from the Illinois Policy team, he leads the agency’s state legislative affairs, working directly with the legislature and other policymakers in Springfield to increase access to and funding for early learning programs across Illinois.

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