Early childhood education efforts depend on acquiring state money
DeKALB – Nancy Teboda was pleased when Gov. Pat Quinn announced he wanted to beef up early childhood education in Illinois.
The increased funding will help more DeKalb County families access quality programs, said Teboda, executive director of DeKalb’s Children’s Learning Center.
“Research has shown for years that early childhood education is important for children to succeed,” said Teboda. “We know there are a lot of families who struggle to enroll their children because they can’t afford it."
During his State of the State address in January, Quinn said he wants to increase access to prenatal care, early learning and parental support. Although he said putting more resources into early education will pay off in the future, he did not provide details on how much the initiative will cost or how it will be run.
From the perspective of child care, 4-C Director Susan Peterson said it’s their job to educate parents on how to find quality child care and to help them find affordable solutions.
“You can’t go to work or school if you’re children aren’t cared for,” Peterson said. “We do have financial assistance available to help parents, which in turn will help them climb the economic ladder.”
Peterson said in 2012 nationwide agencies like 4-C fielded nearly 25,000 calls from families looking for quality child care.
Finding affordable solutions can be difficult, especially when Teboda said the state’s Child Care Assistance Program guidelines changed a few years ago, resulting in the loss of about 12 families in her facility. The program provides low-income working families with a subsidy for child care on a sliding scale based on family size, income and the number of children in care.
“Co-pays went up, income eligibility guidelines went down,” Teboda said.
On the issue of economics, the Illinois State Board of Education is asking lawmakers for a $25 million increase in early childhood education next year statewide. But funding could be scarce because a scheduled rollback of the state's temporary income tax increase may mean cuts for schools and social services.
State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, said money is being requested that is just not available.
“Taxpayers aren’t willing to increase taxes at those levels,” Pritchard said. “Because the income tax is supposed to sunset, we have to assume we’ll get $2 billion less in revenue.”
Pritchard said while he does endorse the governor’s ideas for educating parents to be more responsible before their child is born and supporting children younger than 3 during a critical time of brain development, he sees it as another case of spending money the state doesn’t have on good cause.
“We can’t do that without shifting dollars within a revenue stream or finding a new revenue stream,” Pritchard said.