Illinois has a strong history of system-building efforts and support for families with young children.
In 2002, Gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagejovich committed to strengthening early care and education, and as Governor, he created the state’s Early Learning Council, significantly increased funding, and strengthened care and education programs for children.
Chicago has a long legacy of offering high-quality programs that demonstrably improve outcomes for young children. One of the three long-term studies often cited by advocates as evidence of early care and education’s economic benefits is a study of Chicago’s Parents-Child Centers initiated decades ago.
Illinois released a statewide economic impact study in 2005. The report was produced through a unique partnership of three Illinois organizations: IFF (then known as the Illinois Facilities Fund), a lender to early care and education providers; Chicago Metropolis 2020, a membership organization focused on economic development issues in the Chicagoland area; and Action for Children, a local and state leader in administering early care and education programs and advocating for children’s services. This partnership brought the three Illinois-based organizations together, and helped build relationships across these three organizations.
Using Economic Messages
After the report was released, advocates integrated economic findings into the messages they were already using with policymakers to secure funding for early care and education in a difficult state fiscal environment. Although the Governor was supportive, advocates spent a lot of time with legislators to ensure they supported the Governor. Advocates said that the economic impact study increased media support for investments in ECE.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
Innovative linkages to economic development occurred even before the statewide economic impact report was released. In August 2003, Chicago Metropolis 2020 released a report describing the vital role that for-profit providers play in providing ECE services to Illinois' children. In 2004, the organization issued another report addressing the need for providers to have access to information to improve quality.
Since 1998, Illinois's pre-kindergarten funding has included an 11 percent set-aside for services for children ages birth to three. As more money has flowed into Pre-K, this set-aside has allowed programs for infants and toddlers to expand as well.
In June 2005 at the Early Learning Council’s request, Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the University of Illinois’ Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative initiated the Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map project. Funded by public and private entities, the project offers users the opportunity to identify ECE establishments, and explore the demographic characteristics of counties, townships, and legislative districts. Search results are presented in both tables and maps.
On October 16, 2006, Governor Blagojevich’s Summit on Early Childhood, funded by the National Governors Association, was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The meeting was attended by over 100 stakeholders, and included members of state government, health and education agencies, community-based organizations, foundations, and advocacy organizations. The Summit focused on four critical issues for successful implementation of universal access to Pre-K: increasing capacity, offering linguistic and culturally diverse programs, increasing public awareness, and offering programs for infants and toddlers.
The state budget has included a significant increase in annual funding for early care and education since 2002. For three years, an additional $30 million went into early care and education, then in 2006, Governor Blagojevich committed to phasing in universal access to Pre-K, beginning with an additional $45 million in early childhood funds in Fiscal Year 2007, and $25 million in Fiscal Year 2008.
In addition to Governor Blagojevich, numerous legislators, the Conference of Women Legislators, the Latino Caucus, and the Black Caucus have committed to early care and education as a top policy priority.
State and Legislative Actions
In 2002, The Illinois Early Learning Council Act created the Illinois Early Learning Council, committed to developing a high-quality early learning system that will be available to all children birth to five throughout the state by enhancing, coordinating and expanding programs and services for young children, including Pre-K, child care, Head Start, health care and parental support programs.
There have been significant increases in the state budget towards the Early Childhood Block Grant every year since 2003. In 2003, the legislature passed a $30 million increase; in 2004, another $30 million increase; in 2005, a third increase of $30 million passed; and in 2006, a $45 million increase was passed with the goal of implementing universal access to Pre-K. In 2007, an increase of $25 million to the block grant for Fiscal Year 2008 was passed, even in a tough budget year.
Building Blocks is an initiative led by IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) to work with early education administrators, city planners and other local leaders in 10 Illinois communities, using a variety of approaches to support community planning for new or larger child care centers, or renovations to existing facilities.
Chicago Metropolis 2020 has information and materials about early care and education relevant to early care providers and Chicago Metropolis 2020's membership of community leaders throughout Chicagoland.
IFF (formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund) is the Midwest's largest Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) serving nonprofits, including early care and education facilities, in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin. IFF strengthens the financial and organizational capacity of nonprofits that serve low-income communities and disadvantaged populations through loans to acquire, expand and maintain community facilities, affordable housing and other physical infrastructure.
Illinois Action for Children is dedicated to creating a common voice and vision for advancing high quality and accessible programs that foster the development, health and well-being of all Illinois children. It provides access to resources, community, and advocacy to an alliance of individuals and groups dedicated to empowering and supporting parents, child care providers and family service programs.
Ounce of Prevention works in direct services, training, research and advocacy to help improve the life prospects of young children in poverty.
The Illinois Early Learning Council, is committed to developing a high-quality early learning system that will be available to all children birth to five throughout the state by enhancing, coordinating and expanding programs and services for young children - including PreKindergarten, child care, Head Start, health care and parental support programs.
Voices for Illinois' Children is a statewide advocacy group dedicated to improving the lives of children of all ages so they grow up healthy, happy, safe, loved and well educated.