Press Release - Friday, February 09, 2024
Gov. Pritzker Highlights Childcare Efforts in Villa Park, Champaign
FY24 Early Childhood Grants will expand childcare access for families across Illinois
VILLA PARK, CHAMPAIGN— Governor JB Pritzker joined local leaders and early childhood stakeholders at two daycare facilities on Friday to highlight recent efforts and funding for the Smart Start Illinois Plan. In Villa Park, the Governor visited Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley to celebrate the $300K investment in Birth to Five Illinois funding, which will support the consolidation of their local early childhood services. In Champaign, the Governor stopped at First United Methodist Child Care Center, where he highlighted the $3M of Smart Start Childcare funding. Both contributions come from the Illinois Department of Human Services.
"For far too long, child care has been either unavailable, unaffordable, or both," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Smart Start's nation-leading investments ensure that parents can access this vital resource alongside other essential supports to give their children the tools to succeed as early as possible."
"We know that 90% of a child's brain has developed by age five. Smart Start is ensuring every child in Illinois has the very best start in life," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "By providing support for our youngest Illinoisans and the people who care for them, we are laying the foundation for a thriving society and a thriving Illinois."
The Smart Start Illinois Plan consists of three major initiatives:
- Increasing funding to create 20,000 new preschool seats over four years and improve overall access and care quality,
- Raising childcare worker wages to bring stability to the field and enhance programming,
- Expanding access to home visiting and early intervention services for thousands of children and families
Fiscal support for these initiatives focuses most prominently on the FY24 Early Childhood Block Grant Program, which will see a $75M increase per year for four years to eliminate early childhood education deserts by 2027, and the first-in-the-nation Smart Start Childcare Workforce Grants, providing $130M to increase childcare worker wages. In FY24 to date, 4,139 childcare programs have received a total investment of over $147K. These funds have impacted over 30,000 childcare workers and 166,000 children.
Easterseals Dupage & Fox Valley works to build inclusive communities with advocacy so every child can have access to services and opportunities for healthy development. Through providing therapy services to more than 2,901 local families, the organization ensures empowerment for children dealing with autism, developmental delays or other disabilities.
First United Methodist Child Care Center (FUMCCC) is licensed by DCFS, and serves approximately 100 families in Urbana, Champaign, and surrounding areas. Through Creative Curriculum, FUMCCC responds to children's individual needs and provide teacher-directed activities and child-initiated activities to create a welcoming and enriching environment.
"For too long, working parents have felt an undeniable weight on their shoulders trying to pay for scarce or nonexistent childcare services, " said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana). "With Smart Start, we're extending groundbreaking care — because, simply, no child should be left behind, no matter their background. By implementing meaningful measures such as Smart Start, we're ensuring that every child has a chance to succeed and that they're granted these opportunities starting at a young age."
"In championing Smart Start Illinois, we declare that the wellbeing of our children is a non-negotiable priority," said Senator Paul Faraci (D-Champaign). "This multi-year initiative reflects our dedication to creating an Illinois where every child gets the opportunity to have a proper education."
"Over and over, we've seen that early childhood education is the best possible investment we can make," said Rep. Terra Costa Howard (D-Glen Ellyn). "With Smart Start, we are making real progress toward our vision of making high-quality early childhood programs accessible to every child in Illinois. I'm very proud of the work that we're doing to put Illinois children on the path to successful adulthood."
"Every family should be able to give their child the foundation of a great early childhood education," said Rep. Diane Blair-Sherlock (D-Villa Park). "By expanding these support systems for both children and care providers Smart Start creates progress for all Illinoisians."
"If we want our children to unlock their full potential, we have to prioritize investment in early childhood education so that we can create a strong foundation for them," said Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglass (D-Elmhurst). "Smart Start is strengthening our early childhood network, increasing access for families and better positioning our communities for the future. I'm excited to see its continuing positive impact on Illinois families."
"The investment laid out to expand early childhood education continues us on a path that makes quality learning more accessible and closes equity gaps across the state," said Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville). "This initiative offers new services, uplifts childcare workers, and creates enhanced school programs to give families confidence in choosing Illinois schools to educate their children."
"Smart Start Illinois is our continued investment for the next generation of Illinoisans," said State Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs). "This funding bolsters our education workforce, childhood development and ensures every child in our community has access to a high quality learning environment."
"It's time to prioritize our future generations — because building a brighter tomorrow starts with quality care today. With Smart Start, our investment in affordable, accessible childcare and strengthened funding for early education lays the groundwork for a more equitable and prosperous future for all students," said Rep. Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia). "This investment aligns the state with one of the best early childhood education systems in the nation and empowers every student to thrive from the very beginning."