Gov. Pritzker advocates for early childhood education spending increase in Macomb

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:43 PM CST
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MACOMB (WGEM) - Gov. J.B. Pritzker has hit the road, advocating for a newly proposed budget that includes a several million dollar increase in spending for early childhood education and higher education.

On Tuesday, Pritzker visited with students and staff at MacArthur Early Childhood Center.

“There’s no more important public investment that we can make than an investment in children and their families,” Pritzker said.

Joined by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, the democrats announced what they have in mind for a new plan that targets increasing spending in early childhood programming, the creation of new facilities and scholarships.

The plan is called Smart Start Illinois.

“That’s a desert,” Pritzker said. “If you’re a parent and looking for childcare and the place that you need to go to near your home is full, you may as well live in a place that doesn’t have child care or pre-school.”

MacArthur teacher Mallory Kessler spoke before Pritzker and Stratton in her support for the cause.

“Emphasizing funding on education shows educators that key stakeholders and people in positions of influence value and support our work with children,” Kessler said.

In Pritzker’s speech, he added that increasing teacher wages is also on the to-do list. Kessler noted the school has great need for their own counselors and behavioral specialists.

MacArthur Principal Kelly Carpenter said the extra funding could help the school expand on their half-day programs.

“We have a class that the teacher has in the morning, but also then teaches a second class in the afternoon,” Carpenter said. “We’d like to be able to expand our program to be able to provide more enrichment in full-day sessions.”

Carpenter also said there have been vacancies throughout the school year. She hopes the funding boost will help alleviate that.

Pritzker said Smart Start Illinois is a multiyear investment with the ultimate goal being that every three to four-year old has a place to learn.

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 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

Pritzker’s proposed budget increase for higher education includes a $100 million bump for the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP), $80.5 million in aid to public universities and a near $3 million increase for the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program (MTI).

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