Illinois – A Bright Spot in Early Childhood Education
What makes Illinois noteworthy:
Illinois provides the highest access for 3-year-old Black and Latino children of the 26 states we analyzed, while still meeting a relatively high number of NIEER quality benchmarks (8 out of 10). Thirty percent of the state’s Black 3-year-olds and 26% of the state’s Latino children access Illinois’s preschool program. While the state could certainly provide higher access and higher quality state preschool to these children, Illinois stands out relative to all other states. Washington, D.C.’s is the only program to serve a higher percentage of its Black and Latino 3-year-olds, but that program meets only 3 out of 10 quality benchmarks.
Illinois’s initial prekindergarten program, the Prekindergarten Program for At-Risk Children, began in 1985, serving children ages 3 through 5 who were screened as “at-risk” according to factors such as family education level, income status, and substance use disorders. Illinois’s Preschool for All initiative kicked off in 2006, serving 3- and 4-year-olds and strengthened by bipartisan support and long-term, persistent advocacy from state advocacy organizations.
- The state recently enacted new legislation (Public Act 100-0105) aimed at reducing preschool suspension and expulsion, which disproportionately affects young children of color.
- All pre-K teachers in Illinois’s Preschool for All program must achieve bilingual education certification requirements, and if there are 20 or more English language learners speaking the same home language within a program, the program must provide instruction in that language.
- Though Illinois’s program is available in all of the state’s counties, limited funding prevents many families from accessing the program, despite a funding increase for the 2017-2018 school year. In order to provide more meaningful access for its Black and Latino children, Illinois must increase funding for its preschool program while also increasing quality.