October 24, 2023

Raising Illinois Applauds Governor Pritzker's Vision for New Early Childhood State Agency

Earlier today, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced the creation of a new state agency focused on early childhood. This major undertaking, which will take place over several years, aims to simplify and streamline how families access critical early learning and care services – by better aligning and coordinating programs, data and policies.

As a statewide public-private coalition of parents, providers, advocates and policymakers devoted to closing the opportunity gap for expecting families, infants and toddlers, Raising Illinois stands ready to support the governor and the transition team as they embark on this historic transformation of the governance and design of our early learning and care system.  

In communities across the state, families with young children must navigate a complex, fragmented and under-resourced early care and learning system, making it challenging to meet their diverse needs. In particular, access to services during the prenatal-to-age 3 period—the most formative years in a child’s life—remain the “gap within the opportunity gap.” Thus, when Raising Illinois launched in 2020, powered by Start Early, its stakeholders called for more robust statewide systems of referral, information sharing, community planning and collaboration among services. 

Today’s monumental proposal builds on years of statewide investments, deep public and private engagement and input from local communities to prioritize how we best support Illinois children and families. This long history offers the current administration a strong foundation as this new agency is designed and launched.

While the transition team works to establish the new agency, it remains critical for us to also stay committed to the investments and program improvements outlined in the governor’s Smart Start multi-year plan. We must continue substantial yearly investments in all of our early childhood program to address early childhood workforce shortages and waiting lists for services, and expand services to where families face disparities in accessing programs they need to work and for their children to thrive.  

“Our youngest learners need a coordinated, comprehensive system of supports to help them thrive, and today, the governor presented a transformative commitment to fill this need and better serve our infants, toddlers and expecting families,” Raising Illinois Director Simone Santiago shares. “Raising Illinois is uniquely positioned to ensure those most impacted by the state’s early learning and care system are engaged and invited to work hand-in-hand with the administration and, together, drive transformational change. On behalf of our member organizations and individuals, we stand ready to partner in this historic, impactful endeavor."

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