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Gov. Pritzker Continues Smart Start Tour with Visit to Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago

Press Release - Friday, February 17, 2023

The visit shares transformative early childhood education investments proposed in the FY24 budget

CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker joined local and community leaders as well as childcare providers and parents at the Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago to continue his 'Smart Start' statewide tour. The multi-year Smart Start Illinois plan will provide every child with access to preschool, increase funding to childcare providers to raise wages and quality, invest in new expanded early childhood facilities, and reach more vulnerable families with early support.

"Our job in government is to ensure the people of Illinois have every opportunity to live their best lives, and we know there's no more important public investment we can make than in our youngest children and their families," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Beginning with a $250 million investment in programs and $100 million in capital investments, we're going to put more money into the hands of providers to expand their programs, raise quality, and hire more staff. In the next school year alone, we will add an additional 5,000 preschool spots across Illinois. And when we're done, the Smart Start Preschool investment will mean that every 3-and-4-year-old in Illinois will be able to enroll in a preschool program."

"When we build up our children to be strong, resilient, and well-rounded adults, we build the foundation for a thriving society," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "Studies show that by age five, 90 percent of a child's brain has already developed. So we must take critical steps to touch their lives and teach them, well before that. Smart Start Illinois is the plan that can and will achieve this by providing high-quality care and education to every 3 and 4-year-old in the state, prioritizing our early education workforce and investing in our most important resource: our people."

Research shows that focusing dollars on our youngest children yields a higher high school graduation rate, a higher college attendance rate, greater lifetime earnings, lower healthcare costs, lower crime rates, and an overall reduction in the need for human services spending. With this funding, Governor Pritzker and his administration are working to ensure every student in Illinois receives a quality education starting from a young age. This investment continues with Smart Start Illinois.

Smart Start Illinois demonstrates the state's ongoing commitment to children, families, teachers, and childcare providers. The $250 million investment in FY24 includes:

• $75 million additional for the Early Childhood Block Grant to put Illinois on a path to creating more than 20,000 new Pre-K spots for every child who wants one
• $130 million for nation-leading Childcare Workforce Compensation Contracts that will stabilize providers and give childcare workers a raise
• An additional $40 million for Early Intervention programs to enhance services for families and give providers a raise
• $5 million to expand the Illinois Department of Human Services' Home Visiting Program so more families who want it can receive this early support

In addition to Smart Start investments, other investments being made in the early childhood education include:

• $100 million in capital dollars for early childhood providers to expand existing facilities and build new facilities
• $70 million for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
• $12 million in new funding for scholarships and apprenticeships to expand the childcare workforce
• $1.6 million to launch the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a statewide literacy initiative to send free books to children from birth-through age five

To continue to grow the Early Childhood Teacher Pipeline, Smart Start is allocating $12 million in new funding for scholarships to expand the childcare workforce. The Early Childhood ACE Scholarship program awarded over 1,500 scholarships for the '21 -'22 academic year and for the '22-'23 academic year, 2,069 students have been prequalified for the scholarship.

Today, the Governor visited the Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago, a provider of many high-quality Early Childhood programs. Since 1870, Erie House has provided wholistic support for immigrant and low-income families in Chicago and comprehensive social services to the surrounding community. Their Early Childhood program is NAEYC-accredited and has received Illinois ExeceleRate's Gold Circle of Quality, meaning they have met or are exceeding 15 standards.

Erie Neighborhood House utilizes a variety of programs to ensure their youngest students get the support they need to be successful. These programs include home visiting for new families, individual counseling, and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Erie Neighborhood House's Early Childhood Education program sees 91% of students meet or exceed literacy expectations and 92% of their five-year-olds are kindergarten ready. Ninety-eight percent of students who were enrolled in Erie Houses' Early Education program go on to graduate from college.

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