CHICAGO—First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan, chair of the Illinois Preschool Council, today announced the rollout of Illinois Preschool at the Illinois State Board of Education’s December meeting. Illinois Preschool is a program that will give all Illinois families a choice of quality preschool options for their three- and four-year-old children.
Illinois Preschool will be implemented in six sites throughout Illinois including the City of Chicago, Evanston, Rockford, Decatur, Rock Island County and Edwardsville. The communities were selected based on their ability to implement the Illinois Preschool model within their existing community partnership structure and are representative of Illinois’ rich diversity.
“I am pleased to say that Mayor Richard M. Daley has chosen Universal Preschool in the City of Chicago as one of his highest priorities. I understand that he will be announcing his plans in January. As an Illinois Preschool pilot site, Chicago is well on its way to achieving this goal,” said Mrs. Ryan.
The creation of Illinois Preschool, as well as Year I implementation through six rollout communities, was recommended by a task force chaired by First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan that outlined a multi-year framework for providing all three-and-four-year-olds in Illinois with access to quality early childhood education programs. Governor George H. Ryan accepted the recommendations of the task force, and created Illinois Preschool under Executive Order 1, The
Illinois Agenda for Excellence in Education.
The “Ready, Set, Grow – Illinois Preschool” report is the foundation of the state’s next step in building a comprehensive early childhood education system in Illinois. By coordinating, improving, and expanding existing programs for young children, every community should be able to offer high-quality preschool in a variety of settings, from schools, to child care centers, Head Start programs, and community centers.
Every Illinois Preschool program will provide at least a half-day of high quality education with a certified teacher in the classroom. Each program will meet the Illinois State Board of Education’s Early Learning Standards, be evaluated regularly for program quality, and support parents as their child’s primary teachers. Programs will be affordable to families and will be available in full-day and half-day formats as well as school-year and year-round schedules.
The five critical elements of Illinois Preschool are:
- Professionals in the classroom
- A well-designed curriculum
- Responsive to family needs
- Strong family involvement
- Two-year program serving three- and four-year-olds
Illinois Preschool’s comprehensive framework for universal access over the next several years includes recommendations to:
- Build a comprehensive system on the strong foundation of early childhood learning programs that exist now in Illinois.
- Construct the infrastructure necessary for quality programs in all parts of the state.
- Get more qualified teachers into preschool settings and ways to help child care workers develop professionally.
- Improve early childhood curriculum and make sure all children are getting the same opportunities in class.
- Respond to the different needs of families in all parts of Illinois and help them participate and be a strong part of any early childhood program.
While $5.2 million has been appropriated for universal preschool in fiscal year 2003, the plan calls for $14 million in funding in fiscal year 2004 to bid an additional six to eight rollout
“The need for this program is great,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “We must make every effort to find the resources to make it a reality.”
Costs increase to $137 million by the fifth year of the program, when over 61,000 children could access preschool. By 2012, more than 200,000 three-and-four-year-olds would be served in early childhood classes that are part of a comprehensive statewide system.
Research has demonstrated that children who receive two years of quality early educational programs have better short- and long-term outcomes related to school performance. With the implementation of Illinois Preschool, Illinois will be the only state in the nation to offer universal access to high-quality preschool education to all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents choose it.
New York, Georgia and Oklahoma only serve 4-year-olds through their universal PreKindergarten programs. Florida recently passed a constitutional amendment that mandates a voluntary, universal PreK program for all 4-year-olds in the state.