CHICAGO — Thanks to the Illinois State Democrats’ championing of the FY2023 budget, the Illinois State Board of Education announced a $54 million increase in funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant.

“Early childhood education is vital in guiding our children toward successful careers,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “We must ensure disadvantaged children have an opportunity to succeed by providing them with an intellectual skillset before entering kindergarten.”

The Early Childhood Block Grant provides funding for preschool programs operated by local school districts and qualified community agencies as well as developmental services for infants and toddlers. Among the services offered are Preschool for All and the state Prevention Initiative, which provides intensive and comprehensive childhood development including physical therapy and speech therapy, as well as family support to prepare children for later school success.

The funds reflect a 10% increase in the overall Early Childhood Block Grant budget, and will be used to serve an additional 4,500 Illinois students, adding to the more than 112,000 children who receive early childhood learning supports through state funded programs.

“Early childhood care and education are the backbones of our society,” said State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “It’s important that our educators have the resources they need to support the young children in their care because those children are our future and early childhood professionals enable families to thrive.”

In Illinois, children are typically about five years old when they start kindergarten, but 90% of brain development occurs in children between ages 0-5. There are decades of studies into early childhood development, and evidence has shown that early intervention services are essential in providing a strong academic and socioemotional foundation for children.

“Funding early childhood education is critical, especially as we look to support the careers of the teachers and workers who are responsible for educating our students,” said State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea), chair of the Senate Education Committee. “With high turnover rates, this additional funding will help us retain quality educators and attract new hires to Illinois classrooms.”

Additionally, teachers at community-based programs will see a 5% cost of living increase, thanks to the increase in funding. The extra money will maintain infrastructure for programs including technical assistance, training, professional development, among other essential functions.