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April 4, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich announces bipartisan Illinois team selected to participate in national early childhood discussion
Illinois is one of 14 states to be represented at two-day symposium at Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that a bipartisan team of Illinois educators, legislators, and foundation leaders has been selected to participate in the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy, to be held at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday, June 26 and Friday, June 27. Illinois’s team is one of 14 state-based teams nationwide selected to participate in this two-day discussion on early childhood policies.

“This confirms what we already know -- that Illinois is a leader in early childhood education -- and I am proud we have been chosen to participate in this important discussion on the impact, challenges and opportunities that each state faces in providing the early building blocks for learning,” Governor Blagojevich said. “This symposium represents an opportunity to share our successes, while learning about successes and policies across the nation.”

The National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy is designed to build leadership capacity in the states for developing and implementing science-based policies that enhance children’s learning, behavior, and health. The symposium is designed for world-renowned researchers and Harvard faculty members to come together with 14 state-based teams of policy advisors, legislators, and business and civic leaders to learn about recent advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, medicine, and developmental psychology – which together form an integrated science of early childhood development – as well as evidence-based policy implications from four decades of rigorous program evaluation research.
Illinois was recently singled out as a national leader for being the first state committed to serving all three-year olds with quality preschool, according to a report published by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) of Rutgers University.
Illinois’ high-quality state-funded pre-kindergarten program was ranked first nationally for enrolling 19 percent of the state’s three-year-olds, according to The State of Preschool 2007: State Preschool Yearbook. Nationwide, enrollment of three-year-olds was up 10 percent, mostly due to increases here in Illinois, which became the first state to commit to serving all three-year-olds. Illinois was also ranked 12th for percentage of four-year-olds enrolled – 27 percent. The state’s pre-kindergarten initiatives also meet nine of ten quality benchmarks cited by the report.

Illinois’ team members attending the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy  include: Dr. Christopher A. Koch, State Superintendent of Education; State Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park; State Senator Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry; State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago; State Representative Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling; Kelly King Dibble, senior vice president and director of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Northern Trust and board member for Ounce of Prevention; Jerome Stermer, president of Voices for Illinois Children; and Elliot M. Regenstein, Co-Chair, Illinois Early Learning Council.

“We are delighted with the high level of leadership, focus, and policymaking expertise represented on these teams,” said Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director of the Center on the Developing Child. “We’re looking forward to bringing together our own ‘dream team’ of experts in neuroscience, child development, economics, health services research, program evaluation, and systems building to help these highly motivated civic leaders find the answers they need to take their states to the next level of impact from their early childhood policies and practices.”

The 14 teams attending the symposium include Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. Other highlights of the symposium include state teams meeting in small group breakout sessions to engage in peer learning and focus more specifically on the needs in their states, or on specific relevant scientific, programmatic, or policy issues. At the end of the day, all state teams will reconvene to share the content of their breakout work, and discuss next steps.

The symposium is sponsored by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy is made possible by a generous grant from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.

Governor Blagojevich has made a multi-year commitment to early childhood education through Preschool for All, increasing funding by 90 percent, or $164 million, over the past five years. The Fiscal Year 2009 budget includes additional funding to continue the expansion toward fully funding Preschool for All. 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.


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