Skip to Main Content

Supporting Children, Early Childhood Workforce through Smart Start Illinois and Beyond

Photo: Early child care teacher at Chicago Commons, August 2022

Chicago, Illinois, June 15, 2023 — We applaud the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker on their efforts to prioritize children and families and the parents, teachers and advocates for championing early childhood issues during this legislative session. The costs for early childhood programs and services are compounded by the rise of inflation, making it critical for Illinois to keep pace with investments in our youngest residents.

The budget for fiscal year 2024 includes recommendations from the governor’s Smart Start Illinois plan to make preschool more affordable and accessible. As a graduate school actively building the workforce, Erikson Institute is very excited to see increases for workforce compensation and scholarships for students of color and bilingual students who want to become educators.

We are also delighted to see many of Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA) fellows in the legislature working to pass bills essential to the early childhood experience such as housing, health, food security and more.

FY24 Budget: Early Childhood Investments

  • $170 million for the Child Care Assistance Program to help parents pay for child care, increase workforce compensation, and update its computer system.
  • $75 million in increased funding for the Illinois Early Childhood Block Grant, which provides funding to public or private nonprofit or for-profit entities providing educational, health, social, and/or child development services to young children and their families.
  • $40 million in increased funding for the Early Intervention program and its workforce, who provide services to children with development delays or disability
  • $5 million in additional funding for Home Visiting Programs, which provides family support and coaching on parenting and bonding skills during the prenatal period and as the child grows during the first five years.
  • $5 million in new funding to the Illinois State Board of Education to better support preschoolers with disabilities and developmental delays and strengthen inclusion in schools and community-based early education programs.
  • $1 million in increased funding to the MTI Scholarship for diverse students planning to become teachers in any grade from preschool to 12th grade.

Supporting the Early Childhood Experience

The following are a few examples of Erikson’s Executive Fellows leading or supporting legislation that address family stability and health issues that can affect child development.

  • SB1367 (supported by Sen. Robert Peters, Sen. Omar Aquino, and Rep. Edgar Gonzalez) — This bill prevents the housing authority from using certain information to determine eligibility for federally assisted housing to curb discriminatory practices. Children whose parents/primary caregivers spent time in prison or jail awaiting trial often face barriers to secure housing due to screening/background checks. Nationally, more than 5 million children have had a parent/caregiver in jail or prison at some point in their childhood.1
  • HB2879 — (Chief Sponsor: Rep. Sonya Harper, supported by Rep. Edgar Gonzalez) The Illinois Farm to Food Bank Program– under the Department of Human Services– expands the availability of nutritious, locally grown, raised, or processed foods in food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency food sources in divested areas. In the early years, children lacking proper nourishment are more susceptible to health conditions such as anemia and asthma.2
  • SB0646 (supported by Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford) — Creates the Task Force for a Healing-Centered Illinois Act to advance the State’s efforts to become trauma-informed and healing-centered. This acknowledges how trauma, which can stem from early childhood, necessitates an approach that gets to the root of its causes and requires wholistic support services.
Early child care teacher at Chicago Commons, August 2022

Join the Erikson family with monthly news + events updates shared by academics, community members, and families.

Get on the Early Childhood Bus icon

Let’s center the rights of children in today’s trending headlines and hot topics

Listen to our podcast

Press Play