Pritzker heads to Freeport with early childhood education plan

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:54 PM CDT
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FREEPORT, Ill. (WIFR) - Governor JB Pritzker headed to Freeport Tuesday with hopes to earn the public’s support for his budget proposal that he says includes funds for early childhood education.

“Whatever the reason, when you’re failing our youngest children, when you’re failing our parents, right, we’re failing as a state,” Pritzker said Tuesday. He also says failing those children is not an option in Illinois.

His solution: the Smart Start Plan, which he says is designed to offer more Early Childhood Education opportunities, help struggling families and increase salaries for childcare providers.

“Quality early learning experiences provide the foundation upon which the rest of our children’s educational experiences rely, you heard me say this earlier, kindergarten readiness is a strong start for a great K-12 education,” Sara Latimer said, the director for the Freeport School district’s Early Childhood program.

She sees a lot of families who need money to help pay for schooling and believes easing that burden will go a long way. “With the grant, we are able to offer preschool for no cost for all children who qualify. That is remarkable,” she said.

While Pritzker said he wants to child left behind, he also doesn’t want teachers left in the dust. He wants them to work in jobs they are passionate about and to stick with it.

“We’re raising wages for dedicated staff and pairing that with early childhood ace scholarship programs, incentivizing early childhood professionals in Illinois to stay in the field and get paid more as they obtain early childhood education degrees,” Pritzker said.