SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich applauded the Illinois House of Representatives today for passing legislation that makes Illinois the first state to make preschool available for all three and four-year-olds and for passing legislation that creates MAP Plus, the first program ever in Illinois specifically targeted at helping middle class families pay for college. Senate Bill 1497, creating the Preschool for All program, and Senate Bill 2225, providing new financial relief for college, now go to the Illinois Senate for final approval.
On Wednesday, the Illinois House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2007 budget plan that makes key investments in education, healthcare, and public safety, without raising the state sales or income tax.
“This legislative session builds on what we’ve been doing for four years now: helping kids and helping working people. With universal preschool, we become the only state that will give every three year old and every four year old the chance to start reading early, the chance to start learning early, the chance to get ahead. With MAP Plus, we’re creating the first program ever in Illinois specifically designed to help middle class families afford the high cost of college. These are both programs that will help a lot of people,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The budget for next fiscal year includes an additional $45 million for Preschool For All and $70 million to expand the Monetary Award Program to help more students and their parents afford college and for the first time will provide grants to middle class families struggling to afford college.
Senate Bill 1497 amends the school code to authorize the use of state funds for pre-kindergarten services for children who are not defined at-risk under the current definition. Under current law, pre-kindergarten funds are used exclusively to serve at-risk kids. At-risk kids have the greatest need of service, and numerous studies show that they benefit significantly from attending preschool. However, there are many kids who do not meet the current definition of at-risk who could still benefit from preschool. For example, parents who make $50,000 a year may not have enough money to provide their child with high-quality preschool, but if the child doesn’t have any other risk factors, they’re not going to qualify for state-funded pre-kindergarten. The new Preschool for All program will continue to prioritize at-risk children, but expands it to also serve middle-income families. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) and Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville).
Preschool for All will reach 10,000 additional preschoolers this year. There are approximately 190,000 three- and four-year-olds in Illinois who do not have access to quality preschool. Studies have shown that middle-income children often don’t have access to preschool, but that access to preschool can make a real difference for them in their school readiness.
Preschool for All will expand on the Governor’s commitment to early childhood education, allowing every community to offer high-quality preschool in a variety of settings, including public and private schools, child care centers, and licensed family child care homes, private preschools, park districts, faith-based organizations, and other community-based agencies. The program 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 achieve success in school and in later life.
Senate Bill 2225 creates the new MAP Plus program. MAP Plus is a new program providing a $500 per student grant for sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with incomes less than $200,000 who attend college in Illinois, but did not receive MAP. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP. Funding for the new MAP Plus program is $34.4 million. Funding for the MAP program this year is increased by $34.4 million – increasing MAP grants to their statutory maximum of up to $4,968 – which will help more students and their parents afford college. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) and Sen. Edward Maloney (D-Chicago).
The additional MAP grants will help more students succeed in school by making it more affordable. The average annual cost in tuition and fees to attend a public university in Illinois is more than $7,000, and the average cost for private colleges is more than $18,000, according to Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) data. Nationally, the average yearly cost in tuition and fees for public universities is $9,200, and $24,000 for private universities, according to the National Council of Education Statistics.
Studies show a continuing gap between what working families can afford and the cost of an undergraduate’s education. Yet a college-educated workforce remains critical for the state’s economic future. Estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau show that lifetime earnings are over $900,000 greater for a person with a bachelor’s degree versus a high school graduate.
To help parents know how much sending their children to college will cost, in 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed the “Truth in Tuition” law, which locked in the cost of tuition for public institutions, which means that the tuition students pay as freshmen is the same tuition they pay as seniors. Additionally, the MAP program helped almost 150,000 Illinois students pursue a college education in 2004.