Ensuring Equitable Access to Funding for All Birth-to-Five Classroom-Based Early Childhood Programs in Illinois

A new report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Mixed Delivery Systems of the Illinois Early Learning Council explores the challenges in our current system for community-based programs’ participation in Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative. Recommendations for strengthening the State’s support for quality programs in diverse settings—including child care and Head Start programs—are included. IECAM Project Coordinator Dawn Thomas participates on this committee.

Major findings included in the report:

  • Preschool for All outside of Chicago is mostly provided by school districts.
  • Children receiving Child Care Assistance typically do not participate in Preschool for All or Prevention Initiative.
  • Most Head Start programs are not combined with the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
  • Few children served with CCAP in child care centers attend ExceleRate Gold Circle of Quality Programs.

These findings point to a concerning situation: children in low-income working families that need full-workday, year-round care are unlikely to be able to access the high-quality early learning programming that research shows to be most effective in supporting their kindergarten readiness.

The report identifies barriers to implementing and accessing a mixed delivery system, as well as lessons learned from studying other state systems. This information, along with a detailed data analysis, an identification of root problems, and input from stakeholders, has resulted in the formation of four comprehensive recommendations for policymakers and community leaders.

  • Recommendation 1: Implement a funding mechanism that is timely, transparent and sustainable that Community-Based Organizations can access to deliver high-quality early care and education, meet evidence-based performance standards, and provide adequate compensation to teachers and staff.
  • Recommendation 2: Create a system to support Community-Based Organizations’ participation and retention in Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative, focusing on incrementally improving staff qualifications and compensation, ratios, and instructional quality to build “readiness” to successfully meet rigorous and comprehensive quality standards of PFA and PI.
  • Recommendation 3: Strengthen and support robust community-level planning processes.
  • Recommendation 4: Develop and implement a governance structure that is given the formal authority and responsibility to lead the State’s early childhood system.

According to the report, the Committee is seeking action from the Early Learning Council Executive Committee to elevate the report and recommendations to the appropriate bodies in order to move the State in the right direction.