By Elliot Regenstein, Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Policy
We applaud Governor Quinn for proposing a budget that recognizes the importance of investing in our youngest children – one that dramatically increases the state’s support for early learning. The proposed budget shows the depth of his commitment to the Birth to Five Initiative introduced in his State of the State address, which laid out his plan to connect pregnant women to vital prenatal services, improve access to early learning opportunities, and engage and support parents. The $100 million increase proposed in the FY 2015 budget to support the Birth to Five proposal represents an important step toward a better future for the state of Illinois.
As required by law, Gov. Quinn also outlined the potentially devastating cuts that would be necessary without adequate revenue. This “not recommended” budget cuts home visiting and Early Intervention, and the Early Childhood Block Grant would be reduced by another $18 million on top of the $80 million already cut in recent years. Illinois is at a crossroads and has a choice to make – invest in the future or cut vital resources for vulnerable children and families. We support the governor in proposing a budget that reflects the right priorities for Illinois, and includes the revenues necessary to support important education, health, and human services initiatives.
Recognizing that early learning is one of the most cost-effective investments a state can make, Gov. Quinn proposed an increased investment of $25 million in the Early Childhood Development Block Grant. While not fully restoring previous cuts, according to the governor’s office the proposed increase will allow more than 8,000 additional children to benefit from high-quality preschool programs that prepare them for success in school and in life.
Additionally, Gov. Quinn shares our belief that parents are a child’s first—and most important—teacher, and need to be given the resources and tools to foster their child’s healthy development. His FY 2015 budget proposal maintains level funding for home visiting programs that have proven cost-saving outcomes in health and child development and increased school readiness.
The governor’s proposed increase to the Child Care Assistance Program will ensure that low-income families have access to high-quality care for their children while they work or go to school. Through the Early Learning Challenge, Gov. Quinn’s office has been leading an effort to improve the quality of supports provided through CCAP, and his FY 2015 budget proposal builds on that work. The governor also proposed essential increases to Early Intervention, which will give young children with diagnosed developmental delays and those at risk of delay a strong foundation for future learning
Altogether, Gov. Quinn’s proposed budget is a vital investment in the state’s future at a critical juncture. As Gov. Quinn stated, “the future of our economy depends on the quality of our education.” Money invested in high-quality early learning provides a significant return through increased school achievement and adult productivity. High-quality programs are proven to narrow the academic achievement gap and reduce future spending on crime, child welfare, and remedial education services.
Illinois is a state with a long history of bipartisan support for early learning. As budget discussions now shift to the General Assembly, we urge it to make the right choice and follow the governor’s lead in investing our dollars where they can make a significant, long-term impact—investing in Illinois children and families.
Ounce of Prevention Fund
The Ounce of Prevention Fund works to ensure that all children, particularly those in poverty, have quality early childhood experiences from birth to age five. Educare Chicago, the Ounce’s state-of-the-art school on the South Side, has become a national model of high-quality early childhood education. Learn more at ounceofprevention.org.