Governor Rauner’s FY2017 budget proposal today is significant in its proposed investment in education, particularly early childhood. We appreciate the proposed increases to early childhood funding and programs that serve at-risk children and families, but that proposal only emphasizes the need for immediate bipartisan action on the FY2016 budget.
It is difficult to contemplate what Illinois needs in the next fiscal year when we still do not have a budget for this fiscal year; not only does Illinois not have a budget eight months into FY2016, there seems to be little sense of urgency to pass a budget and a path toward progress seems elusive.
This budget impasse continues to devastate a human services safety net that is already threadbare from years of underfunding. Important components of the early childhood system are being adversely affected by the lack of an FY2016 state budget right now.
- Home visiting services for at-risk expectant and new families, which remain unappropriated and not covered by court order
- Child Care Assistance Program
- Preschool for All
- Early Intervention
In addition, MAP Grants, Teen Reach, and other critical family supports remain unfunded. All of these important programs are increasingly threatened each day we go without a state budget for FY2016. There will soon come a day when they collapse under the weight of delayed payments to providers.
Governor Rauner today proposed a $75 million increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant (along with K-12 funding increases) separate from any larger budget negotiations. In addition, his FY2017 budget proposal returns income-eligibility for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, increases funding for Early Intervention and level funds home visiting services. We appreciate this support for early care and education because the research clearly shows the positive impact it has on the development of children and the success of their families, and we continue to advocate for adequate funding in all other essential parts of the interconnected web of services children and families depend on.
However, this piecemeal approach of funding some essential services while underfunding or eliminating others is dangerous and does not ensure the long-term viability of all programs that vulnerable children and families rely on. Until we as a state act on the dire need for sustainable revenue in any budget that is passed, any positives that can be taken from increases in one area are countered by the damage done to children and families as a result of cuts to another area.
As such, we call on Governor Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to work together on a budget – or, more accurately, budgets – that promotes a strong Illinois economy and ensures that the critically important early childhood investments proposed today can become a reality.
Illinois Action for Children
Fight Crime: Invest In Kids Illinois
Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children
Ounce of Prevention Fund