CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today visited Dennis Early Childhood Center in Rockford and Chicago’s Richard Edwards Center for Young Learners to discuss his Birth to Five Initiative, the cornerstone of his five-year blueprint for jobs and economic growth. The Governor’s Birth to Five Initiative will focus on three keys to a healthy child: universal prenatal care; access to early care and learning opportunities for every child; and strong parent support.
“Study after study has shown that high-quality early childhood education has the highest return of any public investment we can make – more than $7 for every dollar spent,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois can lead the nation in early childhood education. We have the foundation in place. Now is the time to get the job done for Illinois’ littlest.”
The first pillar of the Governor’s Birth to Five Initiative calls for connecting mothers with adequate prenatal care to support healthy birth and development of their child. Prenatal care is already available to expecting mothers with modest incomes through existing programs, yet 25 percent of low-income mothers in Illinois are not receiving the services they need. These mothers are three times more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby with increased health risks and poor development.
The benefits of prenatal care include:
- Children with fewer developmental challenges
- Reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these healthier children as adults
- Reduced costs from fewer complications at birth that will be prevented through proper prenatal care
- Healthier, more prepared mothers
The second pillar of the Birth to Five Initiative calls for providing every child with access to quality early care and learning opportunities from birth, starting with those most at-risk. Research has shown that the early years in a child’s life — when the human brain is forming — represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, emotional and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school and in life.
At-risk children who do not receive a high-quality early childhood education are:
- 25 percent more likely to drop out of school
- 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent
- 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education
- 60 percent more likely to never attend college
- 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime
In 2009, Governor Quinn established the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development, which secured federal grants from Race to the Top that allowed Illinois to deliver high-quality early care and education programs. The Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant has also allowed the launch of ExceleRate Illinois, a brand new quality rating and improvement system that will help ensure every early childhood program is a quality program that prepares children for success in the classroom and in life. The new quality rating system will help also help families understand what quality early care and learning looks like and how to access programming that matches their family and child’s needs.
The third pillar of the Birth to Five Initiative calls for ensuring that parents have the support and services needed to prepare their child for success in school and life. Family involvement during preschool is linked with stronger pre-literacy, math and social skills and positive attitudes.
Studies have found that, regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to:
- Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
- Be promoted, pass their classes and earn credits
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school
- Graduate high school and go on to postsecondary education
Over the next five years, Illinois will connect families to a range of services and opportunities to get the training and support they need to take a leadership role in their children’s education.
The Governor’s Birth to Five Initiative also calls for the expansion of Home Visiting Programs, parent resource centers and Innovation Zones.
Since taking office, Governor Quinn has fought to preserve early childhood education from radical budget cuts and found a way to invest $45 million to build early education centers in areas that need it the most. However, more than a third of our youngest and most vulnerable children still don’t have the opportunity to attend early care and learning programs before they enter kindergarten and the status quo isn't enough.
In his 2014 State of the State address, Governor Quinn laid out a five-year blueprint for jobs and economic growth in Illinois. The Governor's blueprint calls for creating more jobs, making early childhood education a top priority and building an economy that works for everyone.