Saturday, June 4


Early childhood community joins governor to celebrate gains for children

$90 million state investment gives 25,000 more toddlers access to preschool

Send a link to a friend

[JUNE 4, 2005]  ROCKFORD -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich visited Circles of Learning on Wansford Way in Rockford on Thursday to mark the state's success in providing funding to give 25,000 more children in Illinois access to preschool, a goal he set in his first State of the State address, in 2003. Including the $30 million increase in the new budget for the coming fiscal year, Illinois has increased preschool funding by $90 million -- or 50 percent -- over the first three years of Gov. Blagojevich's administration.

"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 learning."

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.

[to top of second column in this article]

[click on ad for poster size]

"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 course."

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 office.

[News release from the governor's office]

< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor