The Illinois General Assembly approved the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget (FY 2022) plan over the holiday weekend. We expect Governor J.B. Pritzker will sign the package into law in the coming days.
We are disappointed that the final budget reduces state funding for some early childhood programs and maintains existing funding levels for others.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Commission on Equitable Funding for Early Childhood Education and Care released its comprehensive report on the future of early childhood in Illinois. The Commission urged the State to “seize this moment to reimagine and adequately invest” in our early care and education system. Specifically, the Commission found that a fully funded system will require an annual public investment of no less than $12.4 billion, of which current funding represents just 14%. The report made clear that state investments must match our belief that quality early care and education is critical to our state’s economy and future well-being of our children.
Cuts and level-funding will not get us to where we need to go. While the federal government has provided important short-term funding as a stopgap to deal with the pandemic and its aftermath, the state has a critical role to play to ensure the health and sustainability of our early care and education system. And current funding falls far short of what is needed to provide the early learning system we need to support communities, families, educators and providers.
State funding in the FY 2022 budget (SB2800) includes:
- Level-funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant at the Illinois State Board of Education
- Level-funding for evidence-based home visiting programs through Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS)
- A $7 million (6%) cut in state funding for the Early Intervention program at IDHS
- A $20 million (4.6%) cut in state funding for the Child Care Assistance Program at IDHS
While the budget includes an important increase of $350 million in state funding for schools, this is the first year since 2014 in which the General Assembly increased its K-12 investment without approving a related investment in its state early childhood program. This is also the first time since Fiscal Year 2013 that state funding to the Early Intervention program has been cut by the legislature.
Start Early and its partners have strongly advocated all year for the need to increase compensation for the early childhood professionals working for community-based organizations. There is more work to be done.
We are pleased, however, that the plan provides the administration the authority to spend significant short-term federal resources on the early care and education system. The General Assembly did increase the appropriation authority for several early childhood programs to allow for the spending of significant American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars:
- $1.3 billion in child care funding to be spent over the current and upcoming fiscal years. While we expect to see more details emerge in the coming weeks on the proposed use of these funds, there have been commitments made to increase provider reimbursement rates, to stabilize further the provider network during COVID-19 recovery, and to work to attract more families back into the program.
- $110 million from federal child care dollars will be directed to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to support a package of early childhood workforce items recommended by the IBHE Early Childhood Transformation Group, including financial supports to students.
- Increased appropriation authority for anticipated Early Intervention and Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting ARPA funds. More details on use of those funds are also expected.
Several other important early childhood bills have been approved by the legislature, including:
- HB158 (Lilly, Hunter) – known as the Health Care and Human Services Reform Act (PA 102-4), a new law that, among other provisions, expands the state Medicaid program to cover home visiting and doula services
- HB3308 (Jones, Harris) – a bill that preserves the use of telehealth services and authorizes full payment parity for services covered by private insurance, including those offered in the Early Intervention program
- HB2878 (Stuart, Pacione-Zayas) – a bill to authorize further articulation for Associate of Applied Science early childhood students and to improve access to associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates, Gateways credentials and other licensure endorsements
- HB3620 (Collins, Pacione-Zayas) – a bill that codifies into state law the current income eligibility threshold (200% FPL) for the Child Care Assistance Program
- SB267 (Villanueva, Guzzardi) – a bill that, through improved data collection, helps colleges and universities better understand student parents and how to help them
- SB820 (Lightford, Ammons) and SB2088 (Belt, Davis) – two bills that makes technical changes to the Education and Workforce Equity Act, including the establishment of a new effective date (January 2022) for the law allowing children turning 3-years-old over the summer to remain in the Early Intervention program until the next school year, as well as the updating of the membership of the KIDS Advisory Committee
- SB2017 (Harmon, Harris) – the FY 2022 Budget Implementation bill, which includes language that reduces the matching requirements for Early Childhood Construction Grant applicants based on the Evidence-based Funding tier area in which their programs are located.