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Gov. Pritzker Announces $200 Million Investment to Strengthen Early Childhood Workforce

Press Release - Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Funding Aims to Expand Early Childhood Educator Pipeline Through Advanced Degree Scholarships and Mentorship

Signs HB 2878 Establishing Statewide Early Childhood Consortium to Distribute New Funding

CHICAGO - Building on the administration's ongoing work to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise young children, Governor JB Pritzker announced a $200 million investment of federal funds in additional training, mentorships, and scholarships to pursue advanced credentials for the childcare workforce over the next two years. The governor also signed HB 2878, establishing a statewide early childhood consortium to strengthen access to high quality child care and direct this funding to where it can be most effective.

Roughly $150 million in funding will be directed towards resources for child care workers and nearly $120 million will go towards financial support — including scholarships — to encourage child care workers to pursue advanced credentials. An additional $30 million will provide coaches, mentors, and navigators the tools needed to help child care workers pursue their degrees. This allotment of federal funding has the potential to upskill about 20 percent of those in need, or about 5,600 child care workers, who may not be able to otherwise complete a postsecondary degree by 2024.

"I'm proud to announce a $200 million investment to bolster the education, training, skills, and credentials of Illinois childcare workforce over the next two years," said Governor JB Pritzker. "We are improving the lives of children across our state by giving them a new level of quality care by upskilling our early childhood workforce. We are providing educational opportunity for 5,600 people to earn degrees that will advance their careers. And we are advancing our pandemic economic recovery. All of these investments will pay dividends for years to come."

This investment builds on the governor's commitment to make Illinois the best state in the nation for families raising young children. Earlier this month, the state increased payment rates to providers for the third time since the governor took office. During the pandemic, Illinois dedicated $290 million to 5,000 childcare centers and homes in 95 counties.  Due to the success of the program, the administration also expanded federal COVID-19 relief dollars to provide another $280 million in grants to support families and childcare providers.

Furthering the state's mission to upskill child care workers, the governor signed HB 2878 creating the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity to help strengthen childcare workers' career trajectory.

The bill authorizes the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to create the Consortium to help child care workers earn advanced degrees and strengthen the pipeline of early childhood educators. With the childcare industry predominantly staffed by women, and particularly women of color, this initiative aims to advance equity while meeting the needs of early childhood educators to help better serve children and families.

"I'm thrilled that the Governor is investing $200 million in the child care workforce and launching the Consortium," said IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro.  "Early childhood teachers told us they want opportunities to grow and learn but they want to do it while still teaching, caring for their families, and supporting their communities.  Through this collaboration of community colleges and public universities we will make that possible." 

"The early childhood education consortium represents a groundbreaking partnership between the state's community colleges and public universities," said ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham. "The consortium approach recognizes the important role that community colleges play in training the early childhood education workforce.  In particular, the requirement that the Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood transfers seamlessly to any public four-year institution across the state will empower these workers to upskill efficiently and with minimal disruption, positioning them for higher wages and career advancement."

To expand degree pathways, the legislation specifically:

• Grants ‘junior status' to child care workers who have earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education
• Determines how to assign college credit for incumbent child care workers who have a child development associate credential
• Standardizes methods to award credit for prior learning

"Ultimately, upskilling the incumbent early childhood workforce fosters racial, gender, geographic, and economic equity while enabling families to work, go to school and provide a safe and high quality environment for children to learn and grow. They are the workforce behind the workforce who held us together during the pandemic. This new law will dismantle barriers and streamline pathways for diverse early childhood professionals to meet educational goals and foster economic stability," said State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). "The governor's support for early childhood educators is evident, and I commend him for signing this law today."

"Meeting the needs of our workforce where they are is so important. This consortium model puts Illinois at the forefront in the development of highly skilled early childhood educators who are so vital to future success, and at the same time provides a framework to meet future workforce needs as they develop and our economy grows and changes," said State Representative Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville). "I want to thank everyone who was involved in crafting this landmark legislation."

To ensure lasting benefits in the education workforce, the bill also creates a 30-member advisory committee for the consortium to submit a report to the General Assembly and the Governor's office on an annual basis.

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