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Start Early Statement on Illinois Department of Early Childhood

Start Early celebrates the passage of this historic legislation and looks forward to collaborating with the new state agency.

May 9, 2024
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On Thursday, May 9, 2024, the Illinois House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 1 (SB1), legislation to authorize the creation of the Illinois Department of Early Childhood. An initiative of Governor JB Pritzker, the proposal, which passed the Illinois Senate last month, aims to improve access to critical early learning and care services by better aligning and coordinating programs, data and policies. SB1 is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford and State Representative Mary Beth Canty. We anticipate the Governor will sign the bill into law sometime this summer. 

“Start Early applauds the Illinois General Assembly for approving such consequential legislation,” Ireta Gasner, Vice President of Illinois Policy at Start Early said. “The state is now committed, more than ever, to transform state government so it can provide the range of services young children and families need to thrive. We thank Governor Pritzker, Deputy Governor Martin Torres, and their team for leading this work—work that’s only just begun.” 

Once enacted, the bill will require the new Department, starting in July of 2026, to administer the Child Care Assistance Program, the Early Intervention program, evidence-based home visiting programs, as well as infant, toddler and preschool programs currently funded by the State Board of Education. It will also license and monitor child care programs. 

“Passing this bill was a team effort, though every team has its stars,” said Jonathan Doster, Start Early’s Illinois Legislative Director. “Thank you to Leader Lightford and Representative Canty for their commitment to young children and their dogged leadership as we moved this significant proposal through the legislative process.” 

Start Early looks forward to sharing with state leaders our knowledge and expertise developed over years through our work providing high-quality early childhood programming and advancing child-focused policies in Illinois, particularly as decisions about the governance and design of our early learning and care system are being made. Together, as the governor often says, we will make Illinois the best state in the nation in which to raise young children.