"On Tuesday night, we passed a budget,"
Blagojevich said. "Now, a $54 billion budget contains a lot of
things, but for me, one of the best parts of the budget is the money
we spend on early childhood education. When I announced my first
budget in early 2003, I set a goal of increasing spending for early
childhood education by $90 million over three years, which meant
sending 25,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool. And on Tuesday
night -- we passed a budget and fulfilled that commitment.
"Fulfilling that commitment means that
we have increased early education funding by 50 percent. And if
you're someone interested in the budget, that's a significant
statistic. But far more important than dollars and percentages is
what this commitment means for children. When it comes to educating
children, the experts all agree that preschool is the single best
investment that a state can make."
"Research shows that children who
receive high-quality early care and education do better in school,"
said Diane Stout, executive director of Circles of Learning at
Harrison Park. "As a Head Start and public school collaboration
site, we commend the governor for his continued commitment to early
Early childhood education is
critical to helping at-risk children begin their formal educations
with the same level of skills and abilities as other children.
Research indicates that kids who start school behind their
classmates often stay behind. For example, children who do not
recognize the letters of the alphabet when they enter kindergarten
demonstrate significantly lower reading skills at the end of first
grade. According to Pre-K Now, a national early childhood advocacy
organization, 88 percent of children who are poor readers in first
grade will still be poor readers by fourth grade. Seventy-four
percent of children who are poor readers in third grade remain poor
readers when they start high school.
The Chicago Longitudinal Study on
Early Childhood Education reported in 2001 that low-income children
who attend quality preschool were 29 percent more likely to complete
high school, 41 percent less likely to be placed in special
education and 42 percent less likely to be arrested as a juvenile
for a violent offense.
A similar study conducted by the
University of North Carolina found that children who attend
preschool have better reading, language and social skills in
kindergarten than children who did not attend preschool.
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"We have increased funding for early
childhood education by 30 million dollars each of the last three
years, which amounts to an extra 90 million during that time," said
state Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford. "This is a step in the right
direction because we have to start teaching our children at an early
age so they can do better at a later age. Increasing funding for
early childhood education is important to helping our children
achieve higher standards down the road, and we need to stay on this
National experts in
the field of early childhood education have recognized Illinois for
its dramatic progress in recent years. In April, Pre-K Now, the
leading national early pre-K advocacy group, recognized Gov.
Blagojevich for making the most significant investment in early
childhood education during a period of budget deficits. The report,
"Leadership Matters: Governor's FY 2006 Pre-K Proposals,"
released on April 21, described Gov. Blagojevich as a "pre-K budget
hero" for continuing his push for preschool expansion despite
difficult financial conditions.
The Pre-K Now report found that
Illinois has the fourth-largest separately funded early childhood
education program in the country. Only California, Massachusetts and
Florida are larger, according to the budgets introduced this year by
those states' governors. New York, for example, provides only $251
million for early childhood, according to the report, compared with
Illinois' $273 million for fiscal 2006. The report also found that
Illinois had the second-largest increase in funding of any state,
behind Florida, which implemented a new constitutionally mandated
program for $400 million.
In 2004, the National Institute for
Early Education Research ranked Illinois as one of the top three
states for its early childhood education program. Illinois received
praise for its teacher training as one of only 13 states to require
certification for its early childhood teachers.
In addition to new investments in
preschool education, the fiscal 2006 budget also provides $330
million in new K-12 school funding, including $8.9 million more for
schools in Winnebago County and $2.4 million in Boone County.
Gov. Blagojevich has secured $2.3
billion in new education money over the past three years -- a rate
of increase faster than any other state in the Midwest and 11th in
the entire country, even before the most recent boost. Overall, the
fiscal 2006 education budget represents a 19.8 percent increase over
the fiscal 2003 budget, the first year Gov. Blagojevich was in
[News release from the governor's