Senator Pacione-Zayas

“This plan fosters greater equity for a workforce entrusted with our most valuable assets—our children.”


CHICAGO – State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas’ (D-Chicago) plan to bolster the early childhood education workforce by creating a statewide higher education consortium passed the Illinois General Assembly May 31. The General Assembly also approved $110 million for standing up the consortium through American Rescue Plan Act federal funds.

“This consortium represents a collaborative effort within the higher education ecosystem to streamline opportunities to upskill incumbent early childhood professionals who are place-based, low wage earners who are mostly women of color,” Pacione-Zayas said. “We need to remove barriers by expanding access and affordability in this field to show support for the workforce that cares for and educates our youngest while families work and pursue educational goals.”

Now contained within House Bill 2878, Pacione-Zayas' plan forms a statewide higher education consortium consisting of all four- and two-year public institutions, with the option for private institutions to opt in. Institutions that are part of the consortium would honor any early childhood education student with junior standing, provided that they have an associate’s degree of applied science in early childhood from any of the member institutions.

The consortium would create regional hubs that would assess local needs and market demand to determine what kind of education model works best for the last two years of early childhood education students’ needs. The hubs could design bridge models that feature hybrid, fully remote, off-site courses or non-traditional hours for meeting local needs. This is an effort to expand enrollment, support completion statewide, diversify all levels of the early childhood workforce, and respond to local workforce demands, Pacione-Zayas said.

State Representative Katie Stuart sponsored the bill in the Illinois House.

“I was so happy to work with Senator Pacione-Zayas to pass House Bill 2878 and bring forth opportunities for the early childhood workforce to earn a degree,” Stuart said. “The consortium we created will help Illinois provide high quality educational opportunities to young children across the state.”

Illinois Action for Children, a statewide organization focused on the early childhood workforce, supported the initiative, which came out of a working group organized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s strategic planning process.

“Illinois Action for Children is thrilled for Senator Pacione-Zayas’ partnership and commitment to the early childhood workforce across Illinois,” said April Janney, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children. “With her leadership on HB 2878, Illinois will bring both ends of the education spectrum – early childhood and higher education – into alignment in service of a workforce that is majority female and women of color.”

Having passed the General Assembly, House Bill 2878 awaits the governor’s signature to become law.