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February 9, 2001

First Lady Launches New Program to Improve Early Care and Education for Young Children

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today announced $3 million to launch the Strategies to Attract and Retain Teachers (Great START) program. The program-to be administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS)-is designed to improve the development of Illinois' children by creating a better trained, stable child care workforce.

"If children are to reach their full potential, we must provide them with the support of well trained care givers who are dedicated to the long term development of our children," Mrs. Ryan said. "This new program will encourage child care professionals to extend their education and remain in their current child care positions."

The Great START program, in conjunction with First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan's Futures for Kids initiative, will provide eligible care givers working in licensed child care centers and family child care homes with a wage supplement every six months. To be eligible for a supplement, care givers must maintain continuous employment with a single center, and achieve an educational level beyond their minimum licensing requirements.

"Research has shown that a child's positive development is impacted by interaction with a consistent care giver," said DHS Secretary Linda ReneƩ Baker. "We estimate that the turnover for child care professionals in Illinois is about 45 percent, which is staggeringly high. With an appropriation of $3 million, the Great START program will encourage approximately 3,000 eligible applicants to increase their skills and improve the outcomes for children in their care."

The wage supplements range from $150 to $1950 depending on the educational achievements of each care giver. For example, if a care giver earns an early childhood certificate, they will receive a supplement of $525 every six months. If the same care giver returns to school and earns a bachelors degree in a field unrelated to early childhood education and child development, they would receive a supplement of $975 every six months. And if the care giver earns a bachelors degree in early childhood education or child development they would receive a supplement of $1200 every six months.

In order to be eligible for the program's FY 2001 funds, care givers must be employed full time, work with children for more than 50% of their workday, make no more than $15 an hour and have completed two continuous years of employment at one facility.

The Early START rules were developed in conjunction with an advisory council that was comprised of early childhood and child development experts in accordance with Illinois statutes.

Futures for Kids was developed by Governor George Ryan and First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan as a statewide resource to coordinate programs and policies related to health, safety and education of infants, children and teenagers. For more information about Futures for Kids, visit www.Futures4kids.org.


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