Tuesday, Nov. 30

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Illinois early childhood education program ranks high in national study     Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 30, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Nov. 22 that a new national survey gives Illinois' early childhood education program high marks. The state's Early Childhood Education Block Grant program ranks among the top three in the nation in the National Institute for Early Education Research 2004 State Preschool Yearbook. The yearbook grades state programs on quality criteria, including curriculum standards, teacher training, class size and support services.

Despite unprecedented budget deficits, Gov. Blagojevich made a strong commitment to early childhood education. During the first two years of his administration, the governor increased funding by $60 million for the Early Childhood Education Block Grant, enough for 16,000 more at-risk children to have access to the state's quality early childhood program.

"I'm proud of what we've been able to do for our state's young children," Gov. Blagojevich said. "We know that children who have opportunities to start their education early in life have much better chances of succeeding later in life. That's why, in the past two years, we made important budget decisions to give even more children the chance to go to preschool."

The study by the National Institute for Early Education Research gave Illinois a score of nine out of a possible 10 for quality -- making it one of only three states to receive a nine or higher. Illinois also stands out in the survey in the area of teacher training, as one of only 13 states to require certification for its early childhood teachers.

Illinois' Early Childhood Program is targeted to reach at-risk children from birth to age 5. Targeted populations may include children from households with low parental education or children in poverty. Children are identified for enrollment in programs based on individual screening and assessment. The budget for this year's program is $243 million, up $60 million from fiscal 2002.

Studies continue to demonstrate that preschool programs positively affect children's success in school and later in life. A study conducted in Chicago Child-Parent Centers found that at-risk children participating in high-quality early childhood programs are 20 percent more likely to complete high school, 42 percent less likely to be arrested as a juvenile for a violent offense and 41 percent less likely to need special education services.

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Research also shows that preschool pays significant dividends to society. A study conducted by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation estimated the economic return of high-quality preschool programs to be over $7 for every $1 spent on these programs.

In an effort to improve and expand early childhood education, Gov. Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 565 in July of 2003. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Graham, D-Oak Park, and Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, created the Illinois Early Learning Council, with the goal of developing a high-quality early learning system that will be available to children age 5 and younger throughout the state. The council examines ways to expand and improve existing, successful early childhood development programs -- including Head Start, pre-kindergarten, health care and parental support programs -- and will report its recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.

The National Institute for Early Education Research, affiliated with Rutgers University, supports early childhood education initiatives by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. The institute's entire preschool yearbook report is available at http://nieer.org/yearbook/.

[News release from the governor's office]

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