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Illinois Governor Proposes Deep Investments in Early Childhood

Governor J.B. Pritzker proposed a state budget and plan that recognizes the complex layers of nurturing children early in life. It was especially heartening to hear the plan acknowledged the investment needed for an early childhood workforce comprised primarily of women of color.

Erikson Institute applauds Governor Pritzker’s four-year vision for the early care and education system with Smart Start Illinois. Under the plan, investments for fiscal year 2024 would include:

  • $200 million for the Child Care Assistance Program with $130 million allocated to Workforce Compensation Contracts to stabilize costs for providers and increase wages
  • $40 million increase for Early Intervention with $20 million allocated to the workforce
  • $12 million in funding for scholarships and apprenticeships to expand the child care workforce
  • $75 million increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant to create more preschool slots
  • $5 million to expand the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Home Visiting programs
  • $100 million in capital dollars to expand existing early childhood facilities and build new ones

Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce

In Illinois, the median wage for early childhood roles ranges from $11-14 an hour. Research shows that the early childhood workforce is critical in helping set the foundation for a child’s learning for the years ahead. Yet, many must supplement their income with public assistance programs to make ends meet or have left the field for higher-paying positions with better benefits. The COVID pandemic only deepened their stress as they served as emergency care providers, working longer hours, implementing safety measures, and addressing the social-emotional issues children continue to experience.

Governor Pritzker’s plan recognizes how important early childhood professionals are to our children and to our economy and his plan builds in wage increases and a path to grow and sustain the workforce. Erikson hopes the Illinois General Assembly will take up the call to support Smart Start Illinois as they review and pass the budget before the end of legislative session in May.

Take Action! Tell Your Elected Officials to Support Smart Start Illinois

As engaged citizens, it is up to each one of us to drum up awareness and let our elected officials know the importance of supporting our youngest learners and their educators.

Find your local legislator and ask them to support the Governor’s vision for Smart Start Illinois.

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