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Gov. Pritzker's Smart Start Illinois Tour Continues with Visits to Peoria and Macomb

Press Release - Tuesday, February 21, 2023

PEORIA — Governor JB Pritzker continued his Smart Start Illinois education tour today with visits to Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center in Peoria and MacArthur Early Childhood Center in Macomb. These visits highlighted his multi-year Smart Start Illinois plan, which will eliminate early childhood deserts for 3-and-4-year olds by 2027. He was joined by Lt. Governor Stratton, local and state leaders, plus childcare providers and families.

Beginning with a $250 million investment in programs and $100 million in facilities, Smart Start Illinois makes proven investments backed by years of research that has demonstrated real returns for families and taxpayers. In the next school year alone, the program will add an additional 5,000 preschool spots across Illinois and soon after, every 3-and-4-year-old in the state will have the opportunity to enroll in a preschool program.

"Smart Start Illinois is all about quality childcare and early education giving children the best care possible start,," said Governor JB Pritzker. "This program will be the beginning of the end of early childhood deserts in Illinois providing working families with more options for their children's care and education. I'm also proud to launch the nation's first Early Childhood Workforce Compensation Contract program, bringing stability to the field by increasing wages for a workforce that is primarily women and people of color, so we can attract and retain more professionals into the early childhood space."

"With Smart Start Illinois, we're providing stable funding for high-quality programming, and pushing forward an expanded workforce that can succeed alongside the next generation," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "We can all imagine something bigger and greater for our children and our working families, because we are laying out the vision to get there today. I am proud to work beside Governor Pritzker to make this plan a reality."

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. 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
Governor JB Pritzker began the day at Valeska Hinton Early Childhood in Peoria. The facility was named after Valeska Hinton, who is considered the mother of the civil rights movement in Peoria. Their Early Childhood program has received Illinois ExeceleRate's Gold Circle of Quality, meaning they have met or are exceeding 15 standards.

Governor Pritzker continued the day at MacArthur Early Childhood Center in Macomb, which supports approximately 130 pre-kindergarten and preschool students ages three to five years old. The children who attend this program benefit socially, intellectually, and physically from participation in quality group care experiences and active parental involvement. The Center prioritizes student's social, emotional, mental, and physical development.

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