Governor Pritzker recommits to strengthening early child care programs across the State

February 16, 2023

Chicago, IL – “Today I ask you to partner with me once again, this time on the long-term investment that has the greatest return for taxpayers with the most positive social and economic impact that I have ever come to you with. It’s called Smart Start Illinois… and it will make this the best place in the nation to raise young children.” – Governor J.B. Pritzker.

We applaud Governor Pritzker’s continuous efforts to make Illinois the best state to raise a family. The Governor has pledged to make an historic investment that will benefit Illinois’ children, families and the early child care workforce for decades to come. This pledge also includes an investment of $212 million for child care programs that will help retain and attract a diverse early childhood workforce, expand program eligibility, and improve administrative efficiency.

“Today, Governor Pritzker introduced Smart Start Illinois, his initiative to ensure that families raising their children in Illinois have access to high-quality child care, preschool, early intervention, and home visiting services, “said IAFC Director of Policy, Michael Kim. “This initiative will help Illinois’ youngest children learn, grow, and thrive as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond.”

Smart Start Illinois will begin with a $250 million investment across early childhood programs in FY24 highlighted by:

  • An additional $75 million towards the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) to create 5,000 new preschool seats, totaling to $673.1 million in General Revenue Fund (GRF).
  • $130 million to begin funding the first-in-the-nation Child Care Workforce Compensation contracts, which will help stabilize the field by raising child care workers’ wages and enhancing equity and quality in programs. With an additional $70 million in GRF funding for Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) totaling $682.3 million.
  • $40 million for early intervention programs to increase provider reimbursement rates from 5% to 10% and allow thousands of children and families to maintain access to these critical services, totaling $144.9 million in GRF.
  • $5 million to reach up to 1,500 more families in need of support over the next four years by expanding the Department of Human Services (DHS) Home Visiting Program, totaling $12.3 million in GRF. 

The Governor’s proposal additionally includes $100 million for the Early Childhood Construction Grant Program to expand access to services in high-need areas of the state and $12 million in funding for scholarships and apprenticeships to grow the child care workforce. Families can also look forward to the extension of the Initial Activity Search program (IAS) through School Year Fiscal 2024–allowing parents who are either searching for a job or looking to enroll in an educational/training program to have three months of child care. 

“It is clear from today’s budget address that Governor Pritzker gets it,” said IAFC April Janney, Chief Executive Office. “He understands that it takes a comprehensive commitment—investing in education and other programs that reduce poverty, foster health and well-being—to make meaningful change.” 

The Governor’s vision includes key initiatives that families, providers, and early childhood advocates have been working towards for years in providing the best education and care for children in Illinois. IAFC is excited for the Governor’s aligned support and leadership and look forward to working with the General Assembly in passing a budget that lays the foundations for healthy children and families for years to come.