New state commission to examine early childhood education funding

The 29-member group is made up of several state legislators along with the state superintendent of education and other advocates, providers and school officials.

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j.b. pritzker education

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses a new early childhood education commission.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced a new commission to study the state’s early childhood education system.

The 29-member group is made up of several state legislators along with the state superintendent of education and other advocates, providers and school officials.

Leading the charge on one of the governor’s campaign promises, the commission is tasked with offering recommendations on how to better use state funds for early childhood services.

Pritzker, whose 2020 legislative wish list includes the expansion of those services, said he has an “audacious goal” for the group: “Illinois will become the best state in the nation for families raising young children.”

Pritzker said many of the modern standards for early childhood education were developed in Illinois, but acknowledged that the state hasn’t quite been able to “reach every child.” 

”All the best research shows that focusing dollars on our youngest children is one of the most fiscally responsible investments that we can make,” Pritzker said at a news conference announcing the commission at Carole Robertson Center for Learning on the Southwest Side.

“Nowhere is this more true than with the families who have historically been left out and left behind,” he said.

The commission will be co-chaired by “four of Illinois’ giants in education,” as Pritzker put it: State Sen. Andy Manar, who helped develop the state’s new evidence-based school funding formula; former state House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie; former state board of education chairman and now deputy governor Jesse Ruiz; and George Davis, the longtime leader of the Rockford Human Services Department.

Along with naming the commission, the governor announced changes he’s already making, including increasing reimbursement rates for all childcare centers and home-based providers to attract and retain childcare providers. Pritzker also increased state funding for training programs by $3 million.

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