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Our Response to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s Proposed FY25 Budget

Start Early applauds the funding directed towards Illinois’ early childhood programs in the latest budget proposal, but calls for additional state funding to meet the needs of families and providers across the state.

February 21, 2024
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

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Start Early thanks Illinois Governor JB Pritzker for again demonstrating his continued commitment to young children and their families by proposing a Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) state budget that includes funding increases for preschool, child care, Early Intervention and evidence-based home visiting programs as part of his multi-year Smart Start Illinois initiative. These increases are urgently needed to serve more children, invest in the early childhood workforce, and strengthen quality in Illinois programs. We also applaud Governor Pritzker for addressing racial disparities in maternal health care and the administration’s proposal to establish a child tax credit focused on our youngest children.   

The governor also highlighted his signature legislative proposal for the spring session, the creation of the Department of Early Childhood (SB3777/HB5451). Establishing the new agency in law is an important step in our work to transform the state’s early childhood system so it works better for children, families and providers alike. 

That said, Start Early is very concerned about the funding level proposed for the Early Intervention (EI) program. Record levels of service delays continue to plague the program, delays linked inextricably to a shrinking workforce. Without annual rate increases, we know providers will continue to leave the program, meaning more infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays will wait for months to receive the life-changing services they are entitled to by law. 

“To build the early childhood system our youngest learners deserve, it’s our belief that Illinois must approve significant increases in state funding every year for the core programs and services that infants, toddlers and preschoolers need,” said Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy.  “We thank Governor Pritzker for his thoughtful budget approach and look forward to working with the Illinois General Assembly to enact a budget that funds Smart Start Illinois and doesn’t leave infants and toddlers with disabilities and delays behind.” 

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The FY25 budget proposal includes the following funding proposals:  

  • $75 million increase for preschool services and prenatal-to-age 3 programs (11.1% over FY 2024) to create 5,000 new preschool slots and expand the Prevention Initiative (PI) program 
  • $5 million increase for evidence-based home visiting programs (21.8% over FY 2024) to serve hundreds of additional families and to increase wages for the incumbent workforce 
  • $158.5 million increase for Smart Start Workforce Compensation Grants to replace expiring federal funds and for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to accommodate caseload growth (27.3% over FY 2024) 
  • $6 million increase for the Early Intervention program(3.8% over FY 2024) to accommodate expected caseload growth
    • Start Early and our advocate partners requested $40 million in new funding for the EI program. We strongly urge the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to increase provider reimbursement rates and wages for service coordinators Service delays are largely caused by provider shortages, and rates of delay are higher now than last year. A significant percentage of providers have indicated they would leave the program if additional rate increases were not approved in FY25.  
  • $5 million in state funding for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) initiative for scholarships to replace expiring federal funds 
    • Start Early and our advocate partners requested $60 million in new state funding for ECACE to continue the program in its current form. Increased compensation and access to higher education are foundational to addressing early childhood workforce challenges.  

The budget also includes $13.2 million to seed the creation of the Department of Early Childhood. We agree with the administration that, if done well, a consolidated early childhood state agency will improve the experiences for families and programs alike. We look forward to engaging with the administration in the work ahead. 

Start Early is also eager to work with the Illinois General Assembly to approve an FY25 budget this spring that includes, at a minimum, the funding proposals laid out today and provides more significant increases for Early Intervention and ECACE scholarships. 

Join Start Early in calling on our state legislature to prioritize our youngest learners today and during this new legislative session.Our babies can’t wait.