Did you know that in Illinois:
- More than 3 million children (to the age of 18) live in the state;
- More than 1 out of every 3 children live in a household with only one parent;
- 67 percent of fourth graders are reading below grade level;
- 63 percent of eighth graders are below grade level in math; and
- 16 percent of high school students do not graduate on time with a high school diploma.
Our 2014 Policy Priorities
In 2014, America’s Edge members will be urging their state legislators and Congressional delegation to do the following:
- Sustain current funding levels for preschool and other early learning programs in the Illinois State Board of Education’s Early Childhood Education Block Grant. In fact, the FY2015 state budget should begin to restore several years of cuts totaling about $80 million – and erasing 25,000 preschool slots – starting with reversing the most recent reduction of $25 million.
- UPDATE: These early learning programs were level-funded for FY2015, yet tens of thousands of young children still lack access to the services they need.
- Maintain full funding and support for the Child Care Assistance Program, through the Illinois Department of Human Services. The FY2015 budget should improve quality options for working families, as well as affordability of services.
- UPDATE: About $24 million has been cut from child care, jeopardizing educational services for kids and vital help for working parents.
b. Federal Policy Priorities:
- Support the proposed state-federal partnership that would increase access to and quality of pre-k to children across the country. This proposal is being discussed as part of the federal budget negotiations that began after the government shutdown. If not included in a budget resolution this year, our work to support this partnership will continue in 2014;
- Fight against cuts, and where possible seek increases, for Head Start, Early Head Start and both the discretionary and mandatory funding streams of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG);
- Work to improve the quality of Head Start/Early Head Start and CCDBG through the reauthorization of these programs.
Meet our Members
Arlington Heights, Illinois
“We need kids to develop creativity at an early age … (It) is essential in ensuring a highly skilled workforce.”
Other recent examples of member profiles:
- Dean Clark, President & CEO, Graphic Chemical & Ink Company, Villa Park, Illinois
- Wendi Valenti, Executive Director, Collinsville Chamber of Commerce, Collinsville, Illinois
- More coming soon!
America’s Edge Illinois in the News
“Cutting early child care and education programs would be short-sighted and bad business for Illinois.”
–Bill Cox, The Brown Drug Company, Quincy, IL
- July 12, 2014. Mayor John Miller and Kevin Weinacht. “Illinois’ cuts in child care hurt families and business.”The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- May 10, 2014. Fitch, Tom. “Early learning strengthens the economy.” The State Journal-Register.
- May 2, 2014. Palmer, Boyd. “Early Childhood education is crucial.” The Ottawa Times.
- May 1, 2014. “Early education boosts the Illinois economy.” Springfield Business Journal.
- April 17, 2014. Dahl, Dave. “Preschool advocates lobby legislature.” Radio Nation/WBGZ1570.
- April 16, 2014. Eighinger, Steve. “Blessing’s Billings backs study outlining economic benefits of early childhood learning.“ Quincy Herald-Whig.
- April 15, 2014. Meisel, Hannah. “Study: Pre-k education provides for economic growth.” WUIS 91.9 FM.
- April 15, 2014. Dunn, Jamey. “To spend or to cut?“ Illinois Issues Blog.
- February 2, 2014. Krutz, Keith. “Invest in early education.” Chicago Sun-Times.
- November 19, 2013. McGuire, Brian. “How should Illinois invest in its future? Here’s where to start.” Crain’s Chicago Business.
- November 17, 2013. “Business leaders meet with Mautino.” My Web Times.
- September 28, 2013. Stewart, Douglas. “Perspectives on helping kids succeed in school and life.” The State Journal-Register.
- September 4, 2013. Sanchez, Manuel. “Building a pipeline of skilled workers.” Chicago Tribune.
- August 31, 2013. “SJ-R to take a look at ‘skills gap’ project.” The State Journal – Register.
- August 4, 2013. “Closing skills gap critical to good jobs.” The State Journal – Register.
- June 6, 2013. Sherman, Derek. “Letter: Early childhood education is essential.” Rockford Register Star.
- May 18, 2013. Welsh, Thomas G. ”Funding for critical programs- including preschool- must remain.” News Tribune.
- May 17, 2013. Stewart, Douglas. “Preschool is an investment that will pay off for state.” Journal Star.
- March 8, 2013. Hendrian, Brian. “Legislators need to invest in our children, the future workforce.” Quincy Herald-Whig.
- April 23, 2013. Landis, Tim. “Skills gap affects thousands of local jobs, says workforce study.” The State Journal-Register.
- April 23, 2013.“Local business leaders discuss closing educational skills gap.” WTAX News Radio.
- May 8, 2012. Miller, John. “Illinois must invest in children for benefit of future workforce.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- May 8, 2012. Woodman, Jess. Letter to the Editor May 8, 2012.The Alton Telegraph.
- December 5, 2011. Cribbs, Jeffrey G. “Wisest investment”. “Wisest investment.” Chicago Business.
- September 28, 2011. Weinacht, Kevin and Cindy Warke. “Closing the skills gap.” Edwardsville Intelligencer.
- May 22, 2011.Valenti, Wendy. “Early educations aids economy.” Belleville News-Democrat.
- April 18, 2011. Nelson, Justin. Letter to the Editor. Canton Ledger Daily.
- March 28, 2011. Cribbs, Jeff. “Invest in Early-Learning Programs.” Chicago Tribune.
- September 2010. Towery, Missy. Chamber Presentation Newsletter. Canton Chamber Courier
- August 24, 2010. Brandon, Ted. Letter to the Editor. Canton Daily Ledger.
- May 17, 2010. Barichello, Monica. ”We all Benefit from Preschools.” The Herald-News.
- May 4, 2010. Cox, Bill. “Increased Support for Quality Early Childcare and Education Establishes A Foundation for our Future.” The Quincy Herald-Whig.
America’s Edge Releases New Reports
Public investments in early learning programs pack a powerful punch for local economies throughout Illinois, according to new research from ReadyNation/America’s Edge. The report “Strengthening Illinois Businesses through Investments in Early Care and Education” notes that:
- Every dollar invested in early childhood programs produces nearly twice that amount in local business activity
- For every 20 jobs created within Illinois’ early learning sector, five new jobs are generated outside the sector
- Fully investing in early learning programs for disadvantaged children could spur $1.2 billion in new business activity and create 19,000 new jobs statewide.
These are important reasons to protect early learning and avoid a return to state budget cuts that already have significantly set-back Illinois’ early learning efforts – and the state’s business climate.
Four business and community leaders joined ReadyNation/America’s Edge National Director Sara Watson in releasing this report on April 15, 2014: B. Bradford Billings, President & CEO, Blessing Health System, Quincy; Tom Fitch, Vice President, Harold O’Shea Builders, Springfield, and Chairman of the Greater Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; Honorable John Miller, Mayor, City of Collinsville; and Lisa Savegnago, President, Nameplate & Panel Technology, Carol Stream.
According to the America’s Edge report Making Sangamon County Competitive: Investing in Early Learning to Help Close the Skills Gap released April 23, 2013 by local business leaders, the demand for high-skilled workers in Sangamon County exceeds the supply of those workers by 6,000. And looking forward ten years, the data shows that 84 percent of high-growth, high-wage jobs in Sangamon County will require a two year degree or higher but only 4 in 10 county residents are qualified to compete for those jobs. Expanding investment in voluntary high-quality early care and education programs is the infrastructure improvement Sangamon County and Illinois needs to reverse these startling findings, according to local business leaders.
Steward Sandstrom, President and CEO of The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Doug Stewart, Central Illinois Regional President of PNC Bank; Kayla Edwards, Director of Client Services of Express Employment Professionals; and Judy Jozaitis, Vice President of Workforce Development and Community Education at Lincoln Land Community College were on hand today to release the America’s Edge research brief showing that children who attend high-quality early learning programs increase their chances to graduate high school, earn more money, and be prepared with the skills needed for the changing employment landscape.
Three America’s Edge members released a new report which highlights how ensuring investments in voluntary high-quality early care and education programs is the infrastructure improvement Illinois needs to reverse the growing skills gap in its workforce. Read the report here.
- Click here to read the report entitled, “Strengthening Illinois Business through Investments in Early Care and Education”
America’s Edge member Kayla Edwards testified before Illinois lawmakers on the importance of shrinking the workforce “skills gap” by protecting early learning investments. Edwards is Director of Client Services at Express Employment Professionals of Springfield. She spoke to members of the House Education Appropriations Committee on March 19, 2014 after Tyler Edmonds, State’s Attorney of Union County, explained the critical role of early childhood programs in curbing crime and violence.
America’s Edge discussed the significance of preschool and child care with state Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale), who is Deputy Republican Leader of the Illinois House and a chief budget negotiator for her caucus. At the March 3, 2014 meeting in Westmont, two business leaders emphasized the economic imperative of protecting young children’s learning from further state budget cuts: Jim Krejci, Vice President for Quality at Downers Grove-based Lovejoy, Inc., and David Sabathne, President and CEO of the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce, West Chicago.
Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) received a letter signed by dozens of business leaders, recommending that policymakers prioritize early learning programs in the FY15 state budget in order to boost workforce development and economic recovery efforts. Meeting with Sen. Radogno in Lemont on Feb. 21, 2014 were David Sabathne, President and CEO of the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce, West Chicago, and Sean Noble, AE’s Illinois State Deputy Director.
Several Illinois Valley business leaders met with State Rep. Frank Mautino on Nov. 12, 2013, to discuss the ways in which strong early learning investments lead to improvements in our workforce and economy. Pictured from left to right at the lawmaker’s Spring Valley office are Tom Welsh, President, MBL (USA) Corp., Ottawa; Rep. Mautino; Sue Isermann, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Workforce Development, Illinois Valley Community College, Oglesby; Boyd Palmer, Executive Director, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce.
On May 2, 2011, America’s Edge members Kevin Weinacht, President of Weinacht & Associates, Wendi Valenti, Executive Director of the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce and Karen Wilson, Owner of Karen Wilson State Farm met with Representative Dwight Kay (R) and then-Representative Thomas Holbrook (D). Our members introduced America’s Edge to Kay and Holbrook and made the case to maintain funding for Preschool for All.
Communications with Policymakers
February 24, 2014. More than 40 business leaders sent a letter to Illinois legislative leaders, asking that the state’s FY15 budget prioritize workforce development and economic growth by protecting and investing wisely in early education.
December 9, 2013. As Governor Quinn considers priorities for his FY2015 state budget proposal, nearly 40 America’s Edge members wrote to recommend that he invest in a strong workforce and economy by defending and improving Illinois’ evidence-based support of young children’s learning and development.
May 6, 2011. Illinois business leaders sent a letter to Senator Mark Kirk asking him to consider several important reforms and investments that will ensure businesses have a workforce with the 21st-century knowledge, skills and abilities businesses need. More than 30 America’s Edge members signed onto to the letter.