Illinois Budget Expands Access to Preschool

Published: May 24, 2006

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, increasing funding for education and health care and allocating funding to make college more affordable, increase the number of nurses in the state, help seniors and veterans with more comprehensive assistance and continue to streamline state government.

According to a statement released by Blagojevich, the FY07 budget does not raise sales or income taxes and ensures:

  • Illinois will become the only state to start giving all 3 and 4-year-olds in the state access to pre-school;
  • All children will have access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance;
  • 220,000 students will receive help with the high cost of college tuition;
  • Overcrowded elementary schools will have smaller class sizes;
  • Illinois’ nursing profession will grow;
  • DNA tests will be processed faster and in state labs, and more police officers will be on the streets;
  • Illinois will guarantee access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance to all children

The Illinois General Assembly passed the $45.8 billion operating budget on May 4.

The budget for FY 2007, which starts July 1, includes significant new investments in education, health care, and public safety, as well as new initiatives to streamline state government and keep our environment healthy.

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Investing in Children

There is a major increase in education funding – $415 million more for K-12 education in the upcoming year. The budget also funds new initiatives proposed by the Governor, including preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds and a pilot program to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Preschool for All

Illinois will begin providing access to high-quality preschool for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old child in the state. The program, which guarantees that in the end approximately 190,000 Illinois children will have the chance to attend preschool, will reach working families who are not able to afford the high cost of private preschool. Funding for preschool programs is increasing by $45 million this year, allowing 10,000 new children to get an early start on their education. Participation in the program for parents is voluntary.

Students who attend preschool are 20 percent more likely to graduate high school, 41 percent less likely to need special education and 42 percent less likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime. Studies also show that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, society saves at least $7 through decreased reliance on social services. The Preschool for All legislation, Senate Bill 1497, was sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago).

Helping Middle Class Families Pay for College

The MAP program will receive its largest increase in ten years, a boost of 10 percent over FY06. Additionally, a new program to help middle-income families will also be created. With a new investment of $34.4 million, Blagojevich created MAP Plus to help middle class families who didn’t receive the traditional MAP program and struggle to afford rising college tuition costs. MAP Plus will provide a $500 per student grant for sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with incomes less than $200,000 who attend college in Illinois. An additional increase of $34.4 million was added to the original MAP grants to increase the grant awards to their statutory maximum of up to $4,968. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP. Senate Bill 2225 was sponsored by Sen. Edward Maloney (D – Chicago) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park).

Classroom Size Reduction

The new budget includes $10 million to help schools pay for additional teacher salaries and benefits.  Senate Bill 2882, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link (D-Lake Bluff) and Rep. Michael Smith (D-Canton), creates a pilot program that will distribute $50,000 grants equally among suburban, downstate, and Chicago Public Schools.

Increase for Higher Education

The new budget boosts funding for higher education by $48 million.  Universities will receive more than $26 million to help attract and retain the best faculty and increase other school programs, and community college grants will increase by almost $7 million.

After School Programs

After school programs will have $12 million more to provide educational and extracurricular activities for children after the school bell rings.  These programs keep children engaged in productive activities at times when their parents may still be at work. After-school programs provide a safe, nurturing environment for kids, keeping them safe while helping with schoolwork, providing mentorship and offering stimulating extracurricular activities.

Foster Care

The FY07 budget includes a $20 million increase to pay for a 3 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for DCFS foster parents and a similar COLA for certain DHS community providers. The increase will improve compensation for those who care for children who have been taken into the state’s custody and other vulnerable populations.

Expanding Access to Healthcare

On July 1, Blagojevich’s All Kids health insurance program will go into effect, giving every uninsured child in Illinois access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage. The Governor also created the Illinois Cares Rx program so that no senior would lose coverage after the federal government implemented the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit program that actually provides Illinois seniors with less coverage than before. The budget also launches a new comprehensive health care program for veterans, in addition to new programs to streamline services for seniors, educate more nurses in Illinois and provides an increase in funding for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.

Nursing Shortage

To address the critical nursing shortage facing Illinois, $1.3 million is dedicated for nursing education scholarships to make pursuing a career in nursing education more attractive and more affordable in the state.  In addition, the Governor allocated another $1.5 million for grants to nursing schools to increase the number of graduating nurses as well as $150,000 for 15 nurse educator fellowships that would supplement faculty salaries. The FY07 budget also contains funding to create a Center for Nursing that would develop a strategic plan for nursing manpower in Illinois, maintain a database on nursing supply and demand, and create nursing retention and recruitment initiatives. The Governor also worked with Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) and Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) to pass legislation that creates a student loan repayment program for nurse educators.

Children’s Mental Health Services

The new budget includes a $5 million increase for children’s mental health services.  The increased funding will expand mental health services to children and is based on recommendations made by the Children’s Mental Health Partnership.

Strengthening Public Safety

Blagojevich included several new public safety initiatives and funding commitments in the new budget to better protect people from the destructive cycle of drugs and violent crime. These initiatives follow three years of strong public safety commitments including increasing the state’s investment in DNA testing by $7.3 million from 2004 to 2006, and opening a $12 million state-of-the-art State Emergency Operations Center. Illinois also is one of only seven states that have achieved the highest level of bioterrorism preparedness according to the Centers for Disease Control.

New Police Officers

Blagojevich earmarked $3 million in the new budget to begin training 100 new Illinois State Police cadets. Two new cadet classes of 50 officers each will be trained in FY07 – the first class beginning this summer and the second beginning in June of 2007. In addition, the budget in
cludes $8.4 million to purchase approximately 300 police cars.

Prairie State DNA Institute

In order to improve training and retention of forensic scientists and enable the state to bring all DNA testing in-house where it’s less expensive and more efficient, the budget for the upcoming year includes $500,000 to create a program to offer scholarships at different Illinois universities and $1.8 million to begin planning construction on the Prairie State DNA Institute.  While the turnaround time for testing forensic samples was significantly reduced to about 30 days from more than 10 months at the beginning of 2003, last year delays at outside laboratories increased the turnaround time for a forensic sample to 75 days. With the new Prairie State DNA Institute, the state will no longer be forced to outsource cases, making the turnaround time to process samples faster and reducing the error rate. The scholarship program will ensure a steady stream of well-trained forensic scientists at the lab, who would train for a period of time while they’re still in college and in return would be obligated to work in state labs for four years.

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