For immediate Release: 4.16.21
Ambitious Plans for Strengthening Young Children’s Well-Being Call for an Equally Ambitious Start
Statewide coalition thanks Governor Pritzker, early childhood commission for blueprint; suggests moving quickly to begin this important work
Aurora, IL - Illinois should waste no time in beginning to pursue the wise blueprint that a bipartisan commission of experts has drawn to build a stronger, more equitable system of early childhood supports—a system we can strengthen with a major investment of new resources and governance improvements. That was the message conveyed Friday by members of a statewide coalition supporting the commission’s work.
This same day, Gov. Pritzker held a news conference to welcome $1.6 billion in new federal resources to further bolster child care and early learning in our state, and he celebrated the ambitious recommendations from the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding. He created the Commission in late 2019, declaring its goal: make ours the best state in the nation for raising young children. Achieving such an important goal will require years of challenging implementation work, acknowledged members of the Illinois Early Childhood Funding Coalition that helped inform the commission’s work. That understanding, and the high stakes involved—improving the well-being of children and families—make it even more important that the work begin immediately, they insist.
The coalition consists of more than 90 organizations—ranging from non-profits and advocacy groups to early childhood providers and school districts—and over 100 parents and other community leaders. The Governor’s commission, meanwhile, consisted of 29 experts from a variety of different fields and perspectives. Its recommendations — the product of extensive study and deliberations — were recently completed; they’re included in a full report (and a shorter, “primer” version).
The three major recommendations envision:
Improving programs’ quality and equity through use of a long-term funding goal in early childhood policymaking — a first for Illinois. In carefully cost-modeling the actual needs of children and families, the commission determined that a fully funded and equitable early childhood system would require an annual investment of about $12.4 billion, with the recognition that a variety of public (and some private) sources would be required.
Better-coordinate the funding of such programs, whose resources are currently spread across multiple agencies. Among other things, this could increase stability and predictability for providers.
Centralize the administration of these birth-to-5 programs in one state agency, for the benefit of participating families and providers who are frequently frustrated by the complications of Illinois’ current, multi-agency system. New community and regional structures could help with this, the report states—another topic the Governor addressed Friday, with plans for a network of early childhood planning councils statewide.
The Governor also announced the creation of a new division of early childhood within the Illinois Department of Human Services and establishment of an early childhood transformation team in partnership with Northern Illinois University.
The Commission’s aims are big and long-term in vision, coalition members acknowledged. However, they added, the work is also too important to delay action—particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic’s pressures have demonstrated the vital significance of child care and other early childhood services to our workforce and economy. Efforts at improvement should continue to prioritize the input and engagement of parents, families, providers and other early childhood stakeholders, the coalition notes.
When the recommendations were first made public last month, the coalition issued a joint statement in support, along with the list of coalition members and accompanying quotes (which can also be found immediately below).
April Janney, President and CEO, Illinois Action for Children
“The early years of a child’s life create the foundation for a lifetime of achievement–and the child care provided during those years is crucial to the fair and equitable participation in our workforce and economy by women and people of color,” said April Janney, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children. “I am eager and hopeful that Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly will be bold in their implementation of these recommendations as first steps toward a new vision of early care and education in Illinois.”
Shauna Ejeh, Senior V.P. of Programs, Illinois Action for Children
“As a Commissioner on Governor Pritzker’s Commission on Early Childhood Funding Equity, I am thrilled about the release of this report which will serve as a roadmap for the child care and early education community in our state,” said Shauna Ejeh, Senior V.P. of Programs for Illinois Action for Children. “The recommendations in this report are an important starting point in resolving inequities in access to services, funding, and support—and we know there is much more work needed to reach these goals in a meaningful way for children and families.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, member, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois organization of law-enforcement leaders
“I am highly encouraged by the Commission’s roadmap to a more equitable and efficient system for delivering care and education to our state’s youngest children. When families are supported with quality programs during their kids’ first years, our communities prosper and are safer."
Lisa Savegnago, President, Nameplate & Panel Technology, Carol Stream; member, ReadyNation Illinois network of business leaders
"The Commission's report points the way to long-needed, more equitable improvements in support of early childhood programs — services that, in turn, help to support today's workforce as well as develop a strong workforce for the future. This is vitally important to our business climate and economy, and we should put these recommendations to good use."
Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen Curda, U.S. Army, Chicago; member, Mission: Readiness Illinois’ nonpartisan, non-profit organization of retired admirals and generals
“Mission: Readiness strongly supports the work of the Commission to address systemic, long-standing challenges. High-quality early childhood supports are crucial for helping kids enter kindergarten ready to learn and setting them on a path to success — toward whatever civilian career, college, or military experience they may ultimately choose.”
Robin Steans, President of Advance Illinois
"These recommendations have the potential to eliminate opportunity gaps and address disparities by bringing early childhood programs and services together in a single, new agency, and by eliminating barriers for families, early childhood providers, and our critical early childhood workforce," said Robin Steans, president of Advance Illinois. "Importantly and for the first time in the state’s history, we now know how much we should be spending to ensure equitable access to high-quality early learning experiences. While it is a daunting number, it makes the work ahead clear. "
Jaime Russell, Program Director of Family Support Services, Children’s Home & Aid
“High quality, accessible early childhood services, like home visiting, are crucial for the success of young children. We commend the Commission’s work on proposing system-wide changes towards a fully funded and equitable early childhood system that recognizes home visiting as an important support to families and as a link to other community services. We look forward to working with advocates and stakeholders to ensure these recommendations help us better serve children who need our services the most‒ children living in low-income communities, with special needs, or involved in the child welfare system.”
The Early Childhood Funding Coalition is a group of advocates, non-profit organizations, child care providers, school districts, parents and others who have come together to fight for the well-being of Illinois’ youngest children. We seek adequate, equitable, sustainable, reliable funding for children's services from birth through age 5. We want to ensure all children can access quality education and care, as their parents choose. We want resources to be invested in the children and communities that need it most, in order to eliminate racial, socio-economic, and other disparities. We are working together to make sure that ALL families and early childhood providers have the resources they need to help children succeed.
The Illinois Early Childhood Funding Coalition consists of 90 organizations (listed below) and over 100 individuals.
A Child's Place Early Learning Centers
A Step Ahead Daycare Inc.
Ada S. McKinley
Advance Preschool, Inc.
Asian Human Services
Association of Illinois Montessori Schools
Baby TALK, Inc.
Base Child Care
Berwyn South D100
Carole Robertson Center for Learning
Centers for New Horizons
Circle Root Collaborative
Chicago Dia de los Niños
Chicago Public Schools
Children’s Home & Aid
Circles of Learning
Community Organizing & Family Issues
Collaboration for Early Childhood
CPPC City Parent Policy Committee/ Community Representative/Executive Committee
CUSD 303 Early Childhood
Dolton Riverdale School District 148
El Hogar del Nino
Erie Neighborhood House
Eyes On The Future Child Development Center
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids - Illinois
For Your Child Preschool
Good Shepherd Institute Family Childcare
GROW Developing Childcare Professionals, Inc.
Happy Bear Child Development Center
Harry S. Truman College
Hathaway Miranda LLC
Harlem Community Center
HCC Hand-n-Hand Child Care Center
Illinois Developmental Therapy Association
IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund)
Illinois for Education Equity
Illinois Action for Children
Illinois Association for the Education of the Young Children
Illinois Early Intervention Coalition
Illinois Head Start Association
Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
Illinois Valley Community College
Kids Above All
Kingdom Academy learning center
Kohl Children’s Museum
Latino Policy Forum
LINK Unlimited Scholars
Little Leaders Academy
Marillac St. Vincent Family Services
McLean County Unit District 5
Mission: Readiness - Illinois
Mosaic Early Childhood
National Louis University
Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery
Oakton Community College Early Childhood Education Center
One Hope United
Open Space Early Learning Center
Ounce of Prevention Fund
Our Leaders of Tomorrow
Prevent Child Abuse Illinois
ReadyNation - Illinois
Rockford Day Nursery
SAL Family and Community Services
St. Paul Christian Day Care and Kindergarten
Teach Plus Illinois
The Center: Early Childhood Professional Learning
The Chicago Urban League
The Children's Center of Cicero-Berwyn
TJs Tiny Town
Under Carrey's Care Corp
Voices for Illinois Children - Powered by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago
We Are The World Home Day Care
YMCA Metropolitan Chicago