Earlier today, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker delivered a bold plan to advance our collective vision for Illinois to be the best state in the nation in which to raise young children. His comprehensive, multi-year plan, Smart Start Illinois, aims to expand and strengthen early care and education services to help ensure all expecting families, infants, toddlers and preschoolers across the state have what they need to be happy, healthy and ready to learn.
Moreover, Start Early applauds the Governor and his administration for releasing a Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) budget framework that proposes a historic $320 million in increased state funding for key early care and education programs, like child care, home visiting, preschool and Early Intervention.
“We thank Governor Pritzker for proposing the Smart Start Illinois initiative, a robust structure for strengthening and growing early child supports that are so vital for families with young children,” Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy, said. “This is a banner day for early childhood in Illinois, and Start Early looks forward to working with the Illinois General Assembly to enact a budget that does right by infants and toddlers across the state.”
The budget proposal includes, among other provisions, the following funding increases:
- $40 million for the Early Intervention program (34.5% over FY 2023) to increase provider reimbursement rates (10%), to address service coordination challenges, and to accommodate the program’s growing caseload
- $5 million for evidence-based home visiting programs (27.9% over FY 2023) to serve an additional 500-650 families
- $130 million to establish workforce compensation contracts with child care providers that will allow programs to increase staff wages
- $70 million for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) (17.0% over FY 2023) to cover the program’s growing caseload and to improve its data system
- $75 million for preschool services and prenatal-to-age 3 programs (12.5% over FY 2023) to create thousands of new slots and improve existing program quality
- $100 million for the Early Childhood Construction Grant (ECCG) program
We are heartened by the administration’s acknowledgement that investing in the early learning workforce and facilities are foundational to sustainable program expansion. Today, too many early childhood programs, particularly those serving infants and toddlers, struggle to attract and retain educators and staff, most of whom are overworked and underpaid.
Start Early is eager to work with the Illinois General Assembly to approve a FY 2024 budget this spring that includes, at a minimum, the funding proposals laid out today. We couldn’t agree more with the Governor that now is the time for bold action.