Illinois Action for Children Responds to Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget and Legislative Recap 

May 29, 2024
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Today, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Fiscal Year 2025 state budget (SB251), which includes funding to establish the new Department of Early Childhood, along with key investments in early childhood programs and initiatives. The new department will alleviate administrative burdens on providers and parents, expand families’ access to early care and education programs, and lay a strong foundation for the entire early childhood system. In addition, the budget includes appropriations for year two of the Smart Start Illinois initiative that will increase preschool slots, strengthen the early childhood workforce, and reach more families with support and resources.

Illinois Action for Children (IAFC) is encouraged by the Administration and the General Assembly’s continuous commitment to prioritizing early childhood programs in the state’s budgets, and we applaud their efforts to support Illinois’ youngest children and their families. The FY25 budget includes $14.2 million to start the new Department of Early Childhood and an increase of $244.5 million for the following programs:

  • $75 million (11.1% increase) to the Early Childhood Block Grant at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which will help create 5,000 additional preschool slots
  • $158.5 million (27.3% increase) to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) for Smart Start Workforce Grants to provide wage increases, support stability for the child care sector, and serve additional families through the Child Care Assistance Program
  • $6 million for Early Intervention (3.8% increase) at IDHS
  • $5 million to expand Home Visiting programs (21.8% increase) at IDHS

Despite these significant gains, the FY25 budget still falls short of fully addressing the comprehensive needs of early childhood education and care programs in Illinois. The $5 million allocated for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) in the FY25 budget is far below the $60 million needed to sustain the infrastructure of the program and scholarships for the early childhood workforce. More than half of the 4,000 students benefitting from ECACE scholarships this academic year will need to complete additional coursework to graduate; without access to an ECACE scholarship, many of these students may not be able to complete their degrees and advance their careers.  In turn, a shortage of qualified teachers could compromise the state’s plan to create 20,000 new preschool slots by 2027.

Likewise, with only $6 million appropriated for Early Intervention, this program will not be able to increase provider reimbursement rates and address service coordinator challenges. As a result, children and families will continue experiencing significant delays in accessing important developmental services.

“Today, we applaud the passing of the FY25 budget and its investments in Smart Start Illinois and the new Department of Early Childhood,” said Angela Farwig, IAFC’s Vice President of Public Policy, Advocacy & Research. “IAFC shares a deep commitment to providing the highest quality care for children and families. However, Illinois must increase investment in the early childhood workforce across all programs and settings, including ECACE and Early Intervention. Our early childhood system thrives from the commitment of our educators, and we need robust workforce investment to build a brighter future for our children.”

The General Assembly also passed several substantive bills impacting early childhood programs, providers, and parents.

  • SB1 (Leader Lightford/Rep. Canty) establishes the Department of Early Childhood, consolidating early childhood services and streamlining access and resources, with full administration starting on July 1, 2026.
  • HB4491 (Rep. Faver-Dias/Sen. Johnson) provides staffing flexibility by allowing either a qualified child care director or an experienced early childhood teacher to be present during the first and last hour of the facility’s workday, with experience required (2,880 hours) at the current facility, and mandates DCFS Administrative Rule filing by January 1, 2025, with a sunset provision set for June 30, 2029.
  • HB4959 (Budget Implementation Act – BIMP) includes legislation that codifies the ECACE scholarship program (HB5024), making it permanent and adding requirements for recipients to commit to serving in the ECE field after completion, collecting additional data, and changing administrative aspects of the advisory committee.
  • HB4951 (Revenue omnibus) creates the Illinois Child Tax Credit program, which will be funded by a $50 million appropriation for FY25, then $100 million the year after. The tax benefit will be calculated using the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit and apply to parents with children under 12 starting January 2024.
  • The FY25 budget removes language passed in FY24 that permitted only school districts to qualify for Early Childhood Construction Grants (ECCG). Non-profit and community-based organizations will be eligible to receive ECCG funds, which were reappropriated in FY25.

IAFC also partnered with Representative Nabeela Syed (D-51st) on HB814 which would allow community engagement in IDHS’ Staffing and Salary survey. This bill would require IDHS to gather biennial input from community partners, educators, and providers to, at minimum, update the survey every four years. This collaborative approach would enable IDHS to collect data on recruitment and retention challenges in the child care field and more effectively design tailored strategies to address them, such as the potential expansion of CCAP to support early childhood educators. The bill passed the House but did not have enough time to pass the Senate. IAFC will pursue strategies to pass this bill during veto session.

The FY25 budget shows commitment from the General Assembly and the Administration to prioritize investments aimed at making Illinois the best state in the nation for families with young children. While creating the new Department of Early Childhood and continued investment for Smart Start are commendable, there remains a crucial need for further investment in the early childhood education and care workforce. This includes expanding funding beyond the appropriations outlined in Smart Start Illinois and maintaining support for programs that have shown to be effective, such as the ECACE scholarship program.

Together we can accomplish even more to make sure that all children in Illinois have access to high-quality early childhood education and care programs.




Illinois Action for Children 

As a state and national leader in the early care and education field, Illinois Action for Children is distinguished by its “Strong Families, Powerful Communities” approach to child development, Pre-K and Head Start, and other family and community supports.