The fiscal 2007 state budget includes $45 million in new funding for
early childhood education, for total spending of $318 million.
Preschool for All also continues to set aside 11 percent of early
childhood funding for birth-to-3 programs targeting at-risk
families. High-quality early learning helps children succeed in
school and in life and benefits the entire state by strengthening
communities and the future work force.
Preschool for All passed
both chambers with strong bipartisan support -- a unanimous vote of
105-0 in the House and a 47-10-1 vote in the Senate.
Senate Bill 1497, House Floor Amendment 3, states that funding
"shall be distributed to achieve a goal of 'Preschool for All
Children' for the benefit of all children whose families choose to
participate in the program." Priority is given to serving all
at-risk children before expanding to children whose families make
less than four times the federal poverty level, or $80,000 for a
family of four. Many of these middle-income families earn too much
to qualify for state-funded programs but too little to afford the
cost of high-quality private programs. Other children will be
eligible once the first groups have been served.
Illinois is recognized as a national leader in the preschool
movement for funding increases supported by the governor and
Legislature during difficult budget times. Three other states --
Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma -- provide preschool to all
4-year-olds, but Illinois is the first and only state whose policy
includes offering voluntary access to all 3-year-olds.
"Illinois has established as a matter of substantive policy that
all children deserve a quality early learning experience," said
Harriet Meyer, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund and
co-chair of the Illinois Early Learning Council. "Governor
Blagojevich and the General Assembly have backed this up with
meaningful funding. We will continue to focus on young children
until every child is served, but today represents a historical
"Bipartisan leadership has been central to our success,"
continued Maria Whelan, president of Illinois Action for Children.
"It demonstrates that at the end of the day, all children matter."
"Preschool for All reflects the science that demonstrates success
in education is dependent on what happens during children's earliest
years," said Jerry Stermer, president of Voices for Illinois
Children. "Our elected leaders agree on the goal of providing
quality preschool for all young children, and we look forward to
continuing this discussion with policymakers, educators and
Preschool for All will provide preschool in a variety of
settings, including child care centers, licensed family child care
homes, community-based organizations and schools. Preschools will be
staffed by experienced teachers with bachelor's degrees and early
education training and provide at least 2 1/2 hours a day of
programming that builds children's social, emotional, physical and
cognitive skills. Preschool for All is based on the recommendations
of the Illinois Early Learning Council.
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Preschool for All aims to ensure that, when fully implemented,
190,000 children in Illinois have access to voluntary, high-quality
preschool. This estimate includes children who are already served in
existing state pre-kindergarten, Head Start and pre-kindergarten
special education programs.
Preschool for All builds upon the $90
million increase approved by the governor and legislature over the
past three years for early childhood education. Since that time, an
additional 25,000 young children at risk of school failure have
access to preschool. In his February budget address, the governor
called for increased funding totaling $135 million over the next
three years to expand access and improve quality even more.
This fiscal 2007 funding increase will help preschool programs
meet higher standards, increase the availability of certified
teachers and ensure accountability through monitoring, technical
assistance and program evaluation.
The Early Learning Illinois campaign praised the governor and
legislators for their commitment to improving the lives of young
children and their families.
Illinois is a statewide advocacy and public awareness campaign
led by Action for Children, Ounce of Prevention Fund and Voices for
Illinois Children, with support from Chicago Metropolis 2020, Fight
Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois, and more than 125 local, regional
and statewide organizations.
"We need every weapon in the fight against crime," said Mark
Donahue, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. "I'd
rather see kids end up in caps and gowns than in handcuffs, and the
research shows that preschool is a penny-wise and pound-smart way to
start kids on the right path in life."
"High-quality early childhood education is one of the best
investments we can make," said Adele Simmons, vice chair and senior
executive of Chicago Metropolis 2020. "Research has proven that
quality preschool programs reduce future social costs and lead to a
better skilled work force. Every dollar invested saves at least $7
in future public expenditures for courts, prisons, remedial
education and social programs. And the benefits to the K-12
education system are huge, because children arrive ready to learn."
Preschool for All takes effect July 1 and will be administered by
the Illinois State Board of Education. A request for proposals will
be released shortly so that programs can apply for expansion funding
that will be available next fall.
[Provided by Julie Parente, director of communications,
Voices for Illinois Children]