* From Elliot Regenstein, Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Policy, Ounce of Prevention Fund…
We are pleased to see the partial restoration of cuts previously made to the State Board of Education’s early childhood education funding in [yesterday’s] FY16 HB3763 spending bill. [Yesterday]’s action is a step forward, but there are still significant challenges that must be addressed urgently.
First, these critical education programs are only one of the supports young children and families need. For children to be ready for school, they need stable housing, nutrition and healthcare, as do their parents. For that reason, we strongly oppose any cuts in health, social service and education programs that would directly impact vulnerable children and families and their communities. In particular, we are concerned about threatened changes to the child care program, which is a key component of the early learning system and faces cuts that would be devastating to parents and providers. Many of these essential services and programs are already running at lower-than-needed levels, having seen cuts over the past several years.
Uncertainty about the budget is a serious threat to providers, and many will be forced to scale back or close their doors if a budget is not passed soon – and if that happens it may take months or years to build back resources that are lost in the next few weeks.
Second, the state still does not have a complete budget agreement that includes sustainable revenue, and until it does we cannot be sure that vulnerable children and families will have the supports they need.
Even in this time of budget uncertainty, early childhood investments are one of the strongest our state can make. Research has proven repeatedly that early childhood education can narrow the achievement gap and reduce future spending on crime, child welfare and remedial education services.
To prevent crippling delays or losses of vital services, we urge Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to work together to enact a budget that truly supports our youngest children and their families by July 1.