April 9, 2021

Bold New Blueprint for Early Childhood Education and Care in Illinois

by McCormick Center

The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University is excited to endorse the recommendations of the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding in their recently released report, providing a blueprint for a comprehensive, high quality, and equitable system of early childhood education and care (ECEC). This reimagined system requires substantial new investments of public resources to ensure that all Illinois families have the opportunity to access the early care and education services they need so their young children truly thrive.  

To achieve this goal, the Commission recommends:

1. Use a New Funding Model in Future ECEC Policymaking

The Commission recommends a funding model based on equitable access to high-quality early childhood education and care for Illinois families. Achieving this goal—inclusive of equitable compensation for the early childhood workforce working in centers, homes, and schools—will require a six-fold increase in investment of public resources. The only way to reach this level of public investment is to use cost modeling that conveys the level of investment needed and how current funding compares. The report provides insight as to how Illinois should prioritize investments to achieve the funding goal based on a new funding model.

2. Centralize the ECEC Funding System and Distribute Funds in New Ways

The Commission recommends centralizing state appropriations and federal funding that is currently spread across multiple state agencies. This will allow policymakers and state leadership to invest money where it is most needed. A unified funding system will provide for greater predictability and stability for ECEC providers resulting in higher quality services for children and families.

3. Centralize Illinois’ ECEC Systems into One New ECEC State Agency

The Commission recommends centralizing ECEC into one newly formed, cabinet-level state agency dedicated to ECEC with designated community and regional structures. This is a critical step to achieving all other Commission recommendations. The streamlining occurs both at the state and the regional levels, creating more efficient access to comprehensive services and supports for children, families, and providers.

These recommendations are the result of intensive efforts by the Commissioners appointed by Governor Pritzker in December 2019. The Commission, supported by the Early Childhood Funding Coalition comprised of child care providers, school districts, families, advocates, and nonprofit organizations, engaged the community in rich dialogue on the intersection of racial equity and access to high-quality ECEC. Together they identified the systemic challenges and agreed on recommendations to ensure equitable access to high-quality ECEC services for all families in Illinois. 

The McCormick Center is proud to have participated in this work. As we reflect on the lessons learned from living through multiple crises over the past year, we now have a bold new blueprint to “build it—early childhood education and care—back better.” We recognize this building will take time to get right. The McCormick Center supports the recommendations contained in the report and commits to working with the Governor, his administration, and other ECEC stakeholders to break new ground and lay a strong foundation for the future of ECEC in Illinois.