Freshman Illinois House member Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II is hitting the ground running on issues impacting early childhood education. He replaces longtime early childhood advocate Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, who spent decades in the General Assembly championing early education programs and reform. Rep. Tarver has some big shoes to fill and it looks like he is up to the challenge.
A father, lawyer and small business owner, Rep. Tarver believes that all children should have access to high-quality education regardless of where they were born or the socio-economic status of their parents.
Rep. Tarver holds a seat on two key House education committees, including the Child Care Access & Early Childhood committee.
Recently, we sat down with Rep. Tarver to find out more about why he champions early childhood education and what he hopes to accomplish this legislative session.
- How have early care and education programs impacted your life?
I will speak to my daughter because I believe that is more appropriate in relation to my passion for early care and education programs. My daughter attends the one of the best public schools in Chicago because she was fortunate enough to attend a very supportive yet rigorous daycare and pre-k. I am affected in that one should not have to be born to two lawyers, who can afford to pay for the best opportunities, in order to have quality care and educational opportunities.
- Why is advocating for early childhood education important for your constituents and/or the state?
Advocating for early childhood education is necessary because our children need a solid educational foundation. Everything builds from that point. Approximately fifteen percent of our state is a child in a public school between kindergarten and high school. To put children in a position where they are playing catch up from the time they get into kindergarten is unsustainable.
- In your estimation, what are the biggest opportunities to improve the state’s early childhood system in the coming weeks, months, and years?
The biggest opportunity is to give it the focus it deserves. It should be a fundamental right to for a child to have access to care, services and education. They should not have to win a parental and financial lottery in order to have his or her basic needs met with quality care and dignity. We have an opportunity to prioritize, from a fiscal perspective, the importance of children’s well-being.
- What do you hope to accomplish during the 2019 legislative session?
I hope to increase access to early care and education programs. Furthermore, I want to provide incentives to increase the retention of pre-k teachers. I also look forward to supporting efforts to increase the minimum wage and ensure individuals who are committed (especially) to our children can earn a living wage.