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March 14, 2007

Illinois recognized as national leader for commitment to early childhood education
National report ranks state second in the nation for preschool accessibility for 3 year olds; Illinois State Board of Education accepting applications from preschool providers for 2007-2008 school year

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Illinois is being recognized as a national leader for its commitment to making quality preschool available to all three- and four-year olds according to a report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research of Rutgers University.  Unlike other states, Illinois has increased its funding for early childhood education through Gov. Blagojevich’s Preschool for All, which the report says will continue to increase access in the future.   
“Preschool for All is a top priority of ours because we know how much quality teaching and learning at an early age helps kids succeed in the future,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “We’re doing the right thing for the future of our children and the future of Illinois by making quality preschool available to all of our children.”
Illinois’ high-quality state-funded pre-kindergarten program earned a 2nd place nationally for the percentage of three-year-olds enrolled and 13th place for percentage of four-year-olds, according to The State of Preschool 2006: State Preschool Yearbook.  Illinois’s pre-kindergarten initiatives also meet nine of ten quality benchmarks cited by the report.  The annual Yearbook ranks all 50 states on access to, resources for, and quality of state preschool initiatives for the 2005-2006 school year.
“Unlike the national picture, Illinois’ funding per child increased,” said NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett.  “Low and moderate income working parents need to know from year to year whether they can count on their state to provide quality preschool for their children.”
“We know that we improve lifelong learning when we can get kids into preschool; they’re more likely to complete high school and less likely to be placed in special education,” said Jesse H. Ruiz, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education.  “Governor Blagojevich’s Preschool for All gets more of our students started off on the right foot, something that will pay dividends for the rest of their lives.”
Building upon the success, the Illinois State Board of Education is moving forward with Gov. Blagojevich’s Preschool for All expansion by accepting proposals from potential providers for the 2007-2008 school year.  Public and private entities with experience in providing educational, health, social and/or child development services to young children are encouraged submit proposals.
Under the state budget recently introduced by Gov. Blagojevich, an additional $60 million would be available for Preschool for All, on top of the $45 million included in the current budget.  The additional funding during Fiscal Year 2008 will allow for another 12,000 children to have access to high quality preschool.  The goal is to continue to increase funding until all children whose families want them in preschool have access to it by Fiscal Year 2011.
“We know that students who go to preschool make better progress in math, language and social skills as they continue their education,” said Christopher Koch, Interim State Superintendent of Schools.  “Preschool for All is opening up the doors for those students whose families want to give their children this opportunity, but may not be able to afford it.”
Preschool for All will allow every community to offer high-quality preschool in a variety of settings, including public and private schools, childcare centers, licensed family childcare homes, private preschools, park districts, faith-based organizations and other community-based agencies. It requires that preschools be staffed by experienced teachers who hold bachelor’s degrees and specialized training in early education and provide at least two and a half hours per day of high-quality programming designed to foster all of the skills – social, emotional, physical and cognitive – that all young children need to have.
The Illinois State Board of Education has posted the Request for Proposals on their Web site at: http://www.isbe.net/earlychi/preschool/default.htm.  The information is available in both English and Spanish.  Proposals must be delivered to the Illinois State Board of Education no later than May 3, 2007.
Gov. Blagojevich has made early childhood education a top priority for his administration, fulfilling his promise to increase investments in the Early Childhood Block Grant program by $135 million over the past four years.  His commitment to expanding early childhood education has gained national attention, including being cited by Pre-K Now as a “Pre-K budget hero” for continuing his push for pre-school expansion despite difficult budget conditions.
The full Yearbook is available at www.nieer.org.


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