Slants & Trends: Illinois Enacts 'Preschool for All' Program

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 6:06 pm
 
Volume 38, Number 15
 

Governor`s proactive pre-k plan offers free education to 3-year-olds 

Groundbreaking legislation recently signed into law guarantees free preschool for any child in Illinois, under the historic Preschool for All program supported by Democratic Gov. Ray Blagojevich.

Important: The program makes Illinois the first state in the nation to make free preschool available to all three- and four-year-olds. The state`s budget includes an additional $45 million to fund Preschool for All, providing for 10,000 new preschool slots this year. Blagojevich`s plan calls for raising that funding amount to $60 million next year and continuing to increase funding "until all children who want preschool have access to it" by fiscal year 2011, according to the governor`s office.

Why? "Study after study and basic common sense tell us that giving kids the chance to start reading early and learning early is the single most important step we can take towards helping them become successful students," the governor said in signing the legislation July 25.

Change: Current Illinois law reserves pre-kindergarten funds for "at-risk" students. Already, 130,000 at-risk young children receive preschool via existing federal and state programs. The new law, however, extends state-funded preschool to children who are not from disadvantaged families--although at-risk children will still continue to get priority. Advocates believe that about 50 percent to 60 p[..]

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