Programs and Advocacy

Good and bad news for young children in Illinois budget

June 1, 2012

The Illinois General Assembly passed a FY2013 budget last night, but there are lingering questions related to early childhood programs.

The Early Childhood Block Grant was cut by nearly $25 million (7.7%) as part of overall cuts to education spending approved by the Senate and House. Senate Democrats also passed two revenue-producing measures and an appropriations bill that would use these revenues to restore cuts to education and fund the Early Childhood Block Grant at last year's level. Unfortunately, the House must still vote on these bills and it is unclear when that might happen.

If the cut to the Early Childhood Block Grant is enacted, a total of 26,000 children will have lost access to preschool because of $80 million in funding cuts over the last few years. The block grant funds Preschool For All and Prevention Initiative birth-to-three programs through the Illinois State Board of Education.

Parents Too Soon and Healthy Families home visiting programs in the Department of Human Services (DHS) were funded at last year's levels. Legislators rejected cuts that were previously on the table for these programs.

The Child Care Assistance Program in DHS was cut by $6 million compared to FY2012, which will likely negatively affect parent co-payments and income eligibility levels, and decrease quality funding. However, this cut is significantly lower than the $16 million cut proposed by Gov. Quinn. The DHS budget also includes a $3 million (4%) cut to Early Intervention services.

These budget bills will be sent to the governor, essentially completing work on the state budget.

While we are sad to see any cuts to early childhood programs, advocates prevented even greater cuts. The Ounce's network of early childhood advocates sent more than 1,600 emails and made countless phone calls and personal visits to legislators during this session.

Because advocates spoke up for young children, legislators passed a supplemental funding bill for child care that allowed children to continue receiving the child care services their families rely on. And they prevented cuts to home visiting programs that would have jeopardized millions of federal dollars.

While we celebrate these hard-won accomplishments, we recognize that we must continue to educate legislators about the needs of young children. The cut to the Early Childhood Block Grant, should it stand, would be a significant loss to children and families. It also clashes with prevailing research that shows the effectiveness and economic value of investing in the earliest years of life.

We will continue to work to protect and grow investments in early learning in Illinois.

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