By Elliot Regenstein, Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Policy
CHICAGO —We support the partial restoration of cuts previously made to the State Board of Education’s early childhood education funding in Governor Rauner’s proposed budget. However, as we continue to gather more information and analyze the details related to early childhood education, we are deeply concerned about many potential cuts, particularly to the Child Care Assistance Program and Early Intervention programs.
We know school readiness for young children is not just about programs funded through education dollars. For children to be ready for school, they need stable housing, nutrition and healthcare, as do their parents. For that reason, we are opposed to the many proposed cuts in health, social service and education programs that would directly impact vulnerable children and families and their communities. We will oppose any changes to the Child Care Assistance Program that would adversely affect low-income families and their ability to find the right provider for their child.
While we have concerns about the FY2016 plans for the Child Care Assistance Program, we were pleased to hear the governor and General Assembly are close to resolving the FY2015 budget deficit for the Child Care Assistance Program. It is imperative that we resolve the Child Care Assistance Program funding shortfall and fully fund the program through the remainder of the fiscal year. Child care services are already missing payments, and care for children will be severely compromised without immediate action.
Our investments in school readiness need to be sustained with investments in elementary and secondary education, and we support the governor’s proposed increase to General State Aid.
The governor advised in his budget address that we need to serve the best interests of the people of Illinois in the long run. Research has proven repeatedly that early childhood education can narrow the achievement gap and reduce future spending on crime, child welfare and remedial education services. Many critical services and programs are already running at lower-than-needed levels, having seen cuts over the past several years.
We have long believed that it is essential to have the sustainable revenue necessary to support programs that serve the state’s most vulnerable children and families. Illinois is a state with a long history of bipartisan support for early learning and is a leader in building a prenatal-to-five early learning system that delivers high-quality, comprehensive services. We urge Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to work together to enact a budget that truly supports our youngest children and their families.
About the Ounce of Prevention Fund
The Ounce of Prevention Fund is a private-public partnership dedicated to providing all children—especially those from low income families—with high-quality early childhood experiences from birth to age 5. The Ounce aims to be the nation’s trusted source for early childhood research and program models that focus on the physical, social and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. To give children and families most in-need the best chance for success, the Ounce develops programs, conducts research, trains educators and strongly advocates for early childhood education. Our early childhood programs, such as Educare, have created national models of high-quality early childhood education, ensuring that more children have access to opportunities best suited for their future success.