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General Assembly Passes Budget and Bills to Support Early Care and Education

The Illinois General Assembly passed a budget that sustains and, in some cases, increases investment in early childhood programming and services.

The new state budget goes into effect July 1 and includes continued funding for Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start initiative, a 5-year effort that supports various aspects of Illinois’ early care and education system. While Erikson Institute is happy to see investments for Smart Start Year 2, and though we expect a fluctuation of funding dips and peaks over the course of time to concentrate on certain areas, we consider funding for critical supports to sustain and build the workforce a key priority.

The shortage of teachers and other staff is an ongoing issue and the decreased funding for programs like the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) is discouraging to hopeful students trying to earn their degree to teach.

Erikson will amplify our advocacy for initiatives that ensure better support, compensation and professional development opportunities are available to the workforce and encourage legislators to join us in having conversations for the coming fiscal year.

In the meantime, we celebrate the many wins for Illinois’ young children and families, which includes the passage of Illinois Senate Bill 1, creating a centralized Department of Early Childhood. This win is particularly rewarding for Erikson and its partner organizations, including the We, the Village coalition, as this was a joint recommendation made to the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding in 2021. The new department will alleviate much of the red tape, lengthy wait times and duplicative processes families often encounter when seeking assistance.

We are also thankful for the following additional investments that will benefit young children and families:

  • $158.5 million for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to support Smart Start Workforce Contracts and the Child Care Assistance Program
  • $75 million for the Illinois State Board of Education’s Early Childhood Block Grant which supports Prevention Initiative, Preschool for All and Preschool for all Expansion
  • $6 million to IDHS for Early Intervention
  • $5 million to IDHS for home visiting programs
  • $5 million for the ECACE scholarship program which is much less than the $60 million required to run the program effectively.
  • $14.2 million for the new Illinois Department of Early Childhood

Erikson is also proud to see many of its Early Childhood Leadership Academy alumni making significant changes on behalf of children and families:

  • Senator Celina Villanueva and Senator Omar Aquino co-sponsored House Bill 4951, which establishes a permanent Child Tax Credit for families with children under age 12 and eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Senator Ram Villivalam sponsored Senate Bill 2675, which expands eligibility for the Early Childhood Construction Grant program for nonprofit early childhood providers who rent or lease from another nonprofit.
  • Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford sponsored Senate Bill 1, creating the Department of Early Childhood.

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