Pritzker Administration Announces $1.6 Billion in Federal Aid to Increase Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education and Childcare
AURORA - Further advancing his commitment to making Illinois the best state in the nation for families raising young children, Governor JB Pritzker today announced $1.6 billion in federal aid to expand access to high quality early childhood education and child care for children and families across the state. This includes $140 million in direct grants to childcare providers over the next three weeks, adding to the $290 million granted to child care providers earlier in the pandemic. To ensure Illinois can fully capitalize on this influx of federal funds and acting on priorities outlined by the Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding, the governor announced a network of statewide early childhood planning councils to ensure all communities have access to the early childhood services they need.
During his first year in office, Governor Pritzker appointed the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding Commission to determine innovative ways to improve child services in Illinois and remove barriers to access for families, especially families of color. The Commission recently released a report that included a roadmap to establish a simpler, better system in Illinois, particularly as it relates to low-income children, rural children, children of color, and children with disabilities.
"Today I'm pleased to announce that Illinois will receive $1.6 billion in federal funding to advance our mission to provide affordable childcare and early childhood education. Last year, my administration created the nation-leading model for pandemic emergency childcare grants," said Governor JB Pritzker. "In the worst throes of the pandemic, Illinois dedicated $290 million to 5,000 childcare centers and homes in 95 counties, allowing them to stay afloat through this challenging year, and offered additional support far beyond the national standard. And families in need of childcare were able to lower their out of pocket cost. The program has been so successful that we will use the first of these new American Rescue Plan dollars to provide another round of funding for it."
Based on a recommendation from the Commission's report, over the next 18 months the administration will launch a network of early-childhood planning councils in communities across the state. The councils will work with families, local early childhood providers, schools, civic leaders, and the business community to ensure every community in the state has the unique early childhood services it needs. Through the work of the local councils, families will be given a voice in designing the childhood services they need, especially families who have historically been shut out of the decision-making process.
Governor Pritzker also announced the creation of an Early Childhood Transformation Team in partnership with Northern Illinois University. The team will help move forward recommendations received from the Commission and the network of local councils on behalf of children, families, providers, and communities. The administration is also creating a new Division of Early Childhood to be housed in the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). The new division will strengthen and centralize the state's existing childcare, home visiting and early intervention services within the agency.
"Throughout COVID-19, with the Governor's encouragement and support, we have taken dramatic action to support the child care system, and we will use the additional federal relief funds to further strengthen our system, stabilize providers, fortify the workforce, build regional and community leadership, and build equity into the fabric of our services - all to better serve families across the state," said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services.
"I'm pleased to see this critical funding that will help all families access the quality early childhood education they deserve," said Assistant Republican Leader Tom Bennett (R-Pontiac). "These investments will strengthen Illinois' childhood services and help provide certainty, ensuring that our child care system can fully support Illinois families as we begin to rebuild from this pandemic."
"The early childhood planning councils will help ensure that we are meeting the unique needs of local families," said State Representative Will Davis (D- East Hazel Crest). "This network supports our youngest learners, closing equity gaps and giving them the tools they need to succeed. I thank Governor Pritzker and his administration for their continued partnership and dedication to making Illinois the best state in the nation for early childhood education and care."
"Early childhood education is the foundation to a child's early development. It teaches them to interact with others, develop interests and personalities," said State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville). "These investments and our report will help ensure that children across Illinois, no matter their ZIP code, receive the resources they need to grow and prosper."
"This commission did really good work and I'm pleased to see the release of the report. As recommendations are considered for implementation, I look forward to working with Governor Pritzker and my colleagues in the General Assembly on establishing policies that continue to improve the fiscal health of Illinois," said State Senator Donald DeWitte (R-St. Charles). "I am also glad to know additional Child Care Restoration Grants will be distributed in the coming weeks, further supporting child care providers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic."
In the coming months and years, the State of Illinois will work towards establishing a system that is: easier for parents to navigate, simpler and provides more predictable funding for early childhood programs and is responsive to local needs in communities across the state. For more information on childhood services in Illinois, go to the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development website.