Gov. Pritzker Announces $1.6 Billion in Federal ECE Funding for Illinois, Creation of IDHS Division of Early Childhood, More

April 16, 2021

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 Illinois

Advance Preschool, Inc.

Alignment Rockford

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

Children’s Playhouse

Circles of Learning

Community Organizing & Family Issues 

Collaboration for Early Childhood

CPPC City Parent Policy Committee/ Community Representative/Executive Committee

Cuddle Care

CUSD 303 Early Childhood

Dolton Riverdale School District 148

El Hogar del Nino 

Equitable Perspective

Ericka Okuneva

Erikson Institute

Erie Neighborhood House

Eyes On The Future Child Development Center

Faith Coalition

Family Focus

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

Kiddos Care

Kids Above All

Kingdom Academy learning center

Kohl Children’s Museum

Latino Policy Forum

LINK Unlimited Scholars

Little Leaders Academy

Little Scouts

Marillac St. Vincent Family Services

McLean County Unit District 5

Mission: Readiness – Illinois

Mosaic Early Childhood

National Louis University

Nurse-Family Partnership

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

Palma Wilderman

Prevent Child Abuse Illinois

ReadyNation – Illinois

Rockford Day Nursery

SAL Family and Community Services

St. Paul Christian Day Care and Kindergarten

Start Early

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