Press Release - Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Gov. Pritzker Concludes Smart Start Illinois Tour with Visits to Quad Cities and Rockford
The visits highlight transformative early childhood education investments proposed in the FY24 budget
QUAD CITIES— Governor JB Pritzker concluded the 'Smart Start Illinois' statewide tour, taking final visits to locations across the state to announce historic investments in early childhood education. He was joined by Lt. Governor Stratton, local and state leaders, childcare providers, and families to highlight his administration's plan to transform the state's system of early childhood education and care. Today the Governor made visits to Skip-a-Long Child Development Services in Rock Island and Nashold Early Childhood Center in Rockford.
Beginning with a $250 million investment this year, Smart Start Illinois is a multi-year plan to provide every child with access to preschool, increase funding for childcare providers to raise wages and quality, invest in new and expanded early childhood facilities, and reach more vulnerable families with early support.
"Access to quality childcare and early childhood education yields better results for children and parents alike," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Our children and parents deserve the best, and the Smart Start Illinois plan is how we get there. It gives us the best return on investment of any government expenditure, and it sets our kids up for success in kindergarten, elementary school, and beyond — even yielding higher graduation rates. From home visiting services from birth to age three, childcare for infants as young as six weeks old, and pre-schools — Smart Start Illinois is a comprehensive plan to build one of the best early childhood systems in the nation."
"Our historic investments in early childhood education and development address critical needs that will nurture children, support providers, and strengthen Illinois for generations to come," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "The Smart Start plan touches every level of early childhood development by improving access to quality care, providing more support to families, and increasing wages and growth opportunities for workers who teach and care for our little ones. Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for your leadership and your commitment to our children."
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 Space 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 Skip-A-Long Child Development Center in Rock Island. This organization has four early childhood centers across the state. Across all Skip-A-Long centers, 94.6 percent of students graduate the program kindergarten-ready. The center the Governor visited today serves 179 children ages six years old to 12 years old. Skip-A-Long Child Development Center has received a Gold Circle of Quality by ExceleRate Illinois, meaning they are meeting or exceeding quality benchmarks on learning environment, instructional quality, and all program administrative standards, including group size and staff/child rations, staff qualifications, and professional development.
The Smart Start tour finished at Nashold Early Childhood Center in Rockford. The Center is proud to be a part of families' first experiences with education, as the Rockford Public Schools system currently has over 2,000 children enrolled in kindergarten and around 2,500 enrolled in pre-school programs. Their mission is to empower all young children to become effective, enthusiastic, and socially competent learners by creating a bond among children, their families, the school, and the community.