Start Early extends its deepest gratitude to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for leading efforts to pass a suite of bills that will support young children from historically marginalized and under-served populations.
Providing a bright and just future for all children is impossible without recognizing that families and communities across Illinois have been impacted and traumatized by generations of institutional racism and long-tolerated inequities. We applaud the leaders in Springfield who understand the challenges at hand and have worked for months to address systemic issues in education, the criminal justice system, and the economy.
The Illinois General Assembly (ILGA) approved several measures intended to strengthen our state’s early care and education system this week. We are proud to have contributed numerous proposals included in the historic legislation moved forward by the Black Caucus.
Once signed into law by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the legislative package will:
- Extend Early Intervention (EI) services until the start of the next school year for eligible age 3 children with summer birthdays
- Codify in state law the Illinois State Board of Education requirement to assess all kindergartners with a common readiness assessment
- Establish the Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultations Act to encourage the state to increase funding for (and the availability of) I/ECMHC services
- Require behavioral health clinicians working with children under age 5 to use a developmentally-appropriate diagnostic assessment and billing system
- Establish the Early Education Act, which encourages the Illinois Department of Human Services to reexamine its eligibility criteria for the EI program; develop a plan for the establishment of specialized teams; and establish a demonstration project to strengthen connections between neo-natal intensive care departments and the EI program
- Establish the Early Childhood Workforce Act, aimed at developing and supporting a more diverse early care and education workforce through increased compensation and the reduction of barriers to credential and degree attainment
- Establish the Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Act, which urges the ILGA to support and monitor the work of the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding
- Update the Child Care Assistance Program eligibility calculator to improve the application experience for families
Although a pair of bills to reduce racial disparities in health care advanced through both chambers, unfortunately, neither measure received final approval. We will continue our efforts in the upcoming legislative session to advance our proposal that would expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover evidence-based home visiting and doula services. We are anxious to continue working with the Pritzker administration and the General Assembly to make Illinois the best state in the nation for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.