SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Illinois is being recognized 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. Unlike other states, Illinois continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing high-quality preschool through Gov. Blagojevich’s Preschool for All program by expanding to serve more children.
“Studies tell us that quality teaching and learning at an early age helps kids succeed in the future,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I believe that every three- and four-year old in Illinois should have access to a high-quality preschool program, regardless of family income, and thanks to our Preschool for All program – they do.”
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.
The annual Yearbook ranks all 50 states on the percentage of children served and compares the number of quality benchmarks each state meets. The survey found nationally that enrollment, quality and state spending increased in the 2006-2007 school year. In the 2006 Yearbook, Illinois ranked 2nd for enrollment of three-year-olds and 13th for enrollment of four-year-olds.
“We know that success later in life starts at a very early age. Preschool for All ensures that all children are well prepared to succeed in school and in life,” said Christopher A. Koch State Superintendent of Education. “We want to give all of our students every opportunity to be successful in life and the Governor and the State Board’s commitment to Preschool for All does just that. I am pleased to see that we are receiving national recognition for their commitment.”
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.
“The children left out are disproportionately from middle-income families that can’t afford private schools,” said W. Steven Barnett, NIEER’s executive director. “Failing to provide high-quality early education opportunities for these children compromises their ability to succeed in school and in life and has grave consequences for our society and economy.”
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 2008-2009 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.
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 website at
http://www.isbe.net/earlychi/html/block_grant.htm. Proposals must be delivered to the Illinois State Board of Education – Springfield or Chicago office – no later than April 7, 2008.
The full Yearbook is available at www.nieer.org.