Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 238 today, which further reinforces Illinois as a leader in early childhood education. This is amplified by the recent historic increase to the early childhood education block grant in the stopgap bridge.
“Early childhood education is an area that everyone can be proud of in Illinois,” Governor Bruce Rauner said. “Today provides us the chance to celebrate the role early childhood education plays in Illinois and the role Illinois plays in early childhood education across the nation.”
Illinois was the first state in the country to ensure a portion of early childhood education block grant went directly to programs for infants and toddlers up to age three. SB 238 clarifies the original intent of the law and ensures that eventually 20 percent of the early childhood block grant will be spent on programs that support children from birth to age three. This is done by allocating 25 percent of any additional early childhood block grant funds each year for the infant-toddler set aside.
“Research shows that emotional, cognitive and physical capacities are developed by experiences in the first five years of life, and those first three years are especially critical,” First Lady and President of the Ounce of Prevention Fund Diana Rauner said. “We know that children thrive in responsive, stimulating environments, and that supporting families in their children’s early years promotes healthy development. This bill will prioritize funding for our youngest learners to provide children access to high-quality programs and other supports.”
It is truly a bipartisan bill and received unanimous support from the General Assembly.
“Educating our children requires us to invest the proper resources to ensure their success,” State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said. “We have made great efforts in improving developmental education over the last ten years. This legislation helps us to continue that work and move toward closing under achievement gaps without taking away from other valuable early childhood education programs.”
“As policy makers we have an obligation to support our children, and that begins with making education a priority,” said State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee). “Ensuring Illinois children have the academic support they need to flourish not only sets them up for success, but will translate into a better future for the entire state.”
As part of the stopgap bridge, the early childhood education block grant will receive an additional $75 million. This is a record investment for the state’s youngest learners.