Early Saturday morning, the Illinois General Assembly approved the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) spending plan, which contains historic investments in the early care and education system, including proposed measures outlined in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s multi-year Smart Start Illinois plan.
Start Early is thrilled that the final budget contains nearly $300 million in new state funding for child care, preschool, home visiting, the Early Intervention (EI) program, and inclusion supports for preschoolers with disabilities and developmental delays.
“Today is a remarkable day for young Illinoisans and their families,” Start Early Vice President of Illinois Policy Ireta Gasner said. “The General Assembly passed a budget that directs significant state funding to a set of bedrock early childhood programs families know, benefit from and love. We thank the legislature for funding the first year of Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois plan, and we stand ready to work with the administration and the General Assembly to continue building and strengthening the early childhood system Illinois children and families deserve.”
With these dollars, more families will gain the access they need to critical early learning programs, and many in the early childhood workforce will see long-overdue increases in pay. Early Intervention providers, for instance, will receive a 10% rate increase come July 1, 2023, and the administration has promised to issue grants to child care providers that will allow them to increase salaries for teachers and staff. The state will also have new resources to further strengthen and expand its nation-leading system of home visiting services. Along with the creation of thousands of new preschool slots in schools and child care centers throughout Illinois, communities will be able to use additional education funding to further deepen services for families with infants and toddlers, like home visiting.
Here are the specifics:
- $170 million (41.4%) increase for the child care system at IDHS
- $75 million (12.5%) increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant at ISBE
- $40 million (34.5%) increase for the Early Intervention (EI) program at IDHS
- $5 million (27.9%) increase for evidence-based home visiting programs at IDHS
- $5 million in brand-new funding at ISBE to support inclusion in schools and community-based early childhood settings for preschoolers with disabilities and developmental delays
- $50 million in new, one-time funding from the Build Illinois fund for the Early Childhood Construction Grant (ECCG) program (though in an unexpected policy change with which we disagree, funds will be directed only to school districts in FY 2024)
Several other important measures impacting the early care and education system – and the families and workforce who are a part of it – have been approved by the legislature this session, including:
- HB3817 (Rep. Gordon-Booth, Sen. Sims), the FY24 budget implementation bill, which:
- Makes permanent the current income eligibility threshold (225% of FPL) for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
- Establishes in law parts of the governor’s Smart Start Illinois plan,
- SB1794 (Sen. Pacione-Zayas, Rep. Ortiz) – establishes in law the existing IDHS home visiting programs
- SB2390 (Sen. Pacione-Zayas, Rep. West) – among other changes to address teacher vacancies in the state, extends for five years the current staffing flexibility that allows early childhood educators with a Level 5 from Gateways to Opportunity to teach in a Preschool For All classroom provided they are working to secure their teaching license
- HB2396 (Rep. Canty, Sen. Lightford) – requires each school board to establish a developmentally appropriate full-day kindergarten program by the 2027-2028 school year
We expect the Governor to sign and approve this final budget package soon.
This suite of policy changes and funding increases was made possible by the commitment and diligent efforts of advocates across the state! Throughout the spring legislative session, parents, educators and advocates contacted state legislators thousands of times on behalf of Illinois families and those who serve them. We encourage you to reach back out to Governor Pritzker and your elected officials to thank them for prioritizing early childhood programs and services that set up our youngest learners for health and success in school and in life.