Sunday, a plan is unveiled that would allow 3- and 4-year-olds in Illinois to enroll in state-funded preschools.
The proposed "Preschool For All" program is part of the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s 2007 fiscal year budget, and he recommends the state spend $135 million over three years to fund it. If approved by the General Assembly, Illinois would be the first state to offer free preschool to three-year-olds. Preschool for all would guarantee that 190,000 kids could attend preschool. Studies show that kids do better with 2 full years.
George Davis, a member of Rockford’s Early Learning Council and Executive Director of Human Services for the City of Rockford says, "The more children that are exposed to quality preschool the more we can expect the quality of our educational opportunities to improve in Rockford. So I think it's a good thing but we will have to see what dollars are available and what priorities will reach children in Rockford area."
Davis says Rockford just got a $900,000 grant to enhance the quality of learning. He also says this is a plan that has been in the works for quite some time so it's not just election year politics.
But the idea sparked criticism from Blagojevich's political rivals. State Treasurer and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka says she loves the idea, but Illinois can't afford it.
Topinka states, “Governor Blagojevich is irresponsibly trotting out another warm and fuzzy program with no money to pay for it.”
RepublicanCandidate Ron Gidwitz says, "This is nothing more than a vehicle to carry him in the campaign season.” Similar statements came from Blagojevich's Democratic opponent, Edwin Eisendrath who calls it another program the governor has unveiled without the money to pay for it.