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DeKalb County child care agencies push for state funding

DeKALB – DeKalb County’s child care centers hope the Illinois General Assembly hears their call for more funding.

Representatives from Community Coordinated Child Care, or 4-C, along with representatives from other local child care centers, met with state Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, on Monday to discuss what they felt was a societal issue.

“Any time, as educators, we can reach children early pays off later,” said Susan Petersen, executive director of 4-C.

The hourslong discussion between Pritchard and the child care representatives was a part of the Statewide Mother’s Day of Action, sponsored by Illinois Action for Children. Illinois Action for Children lobbies lawmakers for increased funding to early childhood education programs.

According to Illinois Action for Children, there are 34 child care centers and 73 licensed child care homes in Pritchard’s district, which includes parts of Belvidere, DeKalb, Campton Hills and Hinckley.

Pritchard said he always has supported funding for early childhood education during his tenure as a lawmaker.

“I am strong supporter of early childhood education because the results do make differences on people’s lives,” Pritchard said. “We are successful in breaking that chain of poverty and dependence.”

The discussion touched on a variety of topics, including sources of state funding, single parenting, competition with local school districts and the prospects of raising the minimum wage.

The state funds organizations, including 4-C, to subsidize the tuition of early childhood education for low-income students. Parents who take part in the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program pay a monthly co-pay based on their income.

Funds are distributed by 4-C to local child care centers. This amount was $2.7 million in fiscal 2012. During the same time period, 97.5 percent of 4-C’s $4.9 million budget came from state and federal government grants.

Pritchard said early childhood education is funded by the state through different agencies, and all of these funds are under pressure. The Illinois State Board of Education’s funding for early childhood education is $340 million this year.

Funding to the child care assistance program, which is run by the Illinois Department of Human Services, has dropped in recent years. Because of the drop, some people have seen their co-pays double, Petersen said.

But early childhood education is worth it, said Jami Nguyen, who represented Land of Learning child care center in Sycamore.

“It always makes me feel good when parents and teachers call us back and say, ‘Hey, thank you for preparing our kids,’ ” Nguyen said.

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