SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Governor J.B. Pritzker is set to announce a new policy aimed at guaranteeing early childhood care for the children of Illinois.
In a news conference ahead of his budget speech Wednesday at noon, he said he will use his speech to announce Smart Start Illinois, a multi-year policy designed to get young Illinoisans access to preschool and other childhood care.
“In the first year alone, 5,000 seats will be available across the state,” the governor said. “That’s in addition to pre-K that we already offer.”
Pritzker estimates the Smart Start program will cost a total of $250 million for the next budget, including adding $75 million to the Illinois State Board of Education to expand for more spots in preschool, and $130 million for childcare workers and raise their wages to $17-19 an hour over the next four years.
“This only works if you have the workforce to support more students in classrooms,” Pritzker said.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has expressed caution about “frivolous spending” of adding multi-year state programs.
“We don’t want to see spending for new programs that might not be proven or tested programs that end up being added to the budget year to year,” Mendoza said on Capitol Connection last month.
But Pritzker believes this is the kind of investment that will pay off in the long run.
“She hasn’t seen the revenue estimates or counted that into the forecast of whether she thinks we have dollars available to put into our operating budget,” Pritzker said.
This is the first time the Illinois legislature has heard Pritzker’s proposal. Both chambers would need to vote on the proposal before the program can start being implemented.