A Pitch Was Made To A House Committee About A New Early Childhood Service In Illinois

A Pitch Was Made To A House Committee About A New Early Childhood Service In Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are getting a better look at a plan for a new state agency to focus on early childhood. The agency would include a new cabinet post paid for by taxpayers and bringing in six figures a year.

In October, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the creation of the Department of Early Childhood. Tuesday in Springfield, a House committee heard more from Ann Whalen, the head of early childhood transition, about what the agency plans to do with an extra $13.1 million in taxpayer money.

According to Whalen, the plan is to make it easier for families to get services by combining early childhood programs into a single new agency called the Department of Early Childhood.

For the first year, the $13.1 million would be split between paying staff and running the business, as well as giving parents and workers money to learn. Whalen said that the new agency could have a $4 billion budget over the next two years if federal taxpayer money is added. This is after it combines early childhood programs from the Illinois State Board of Education, the Department of Human Programs, and the Department of Children and Family Services.

DHS has set aside $466.7 million for early childhood programs in its suggested budget for the fiscal year 2025. It has $786.8 million for young children. The line entry for daycare has $60.5 million in DCFS.

Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, wasn’t sure if there would be any saves.

Wilhour said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new government agency cut jobs,” but “I guess we’ll see.”

The person named in House Bill 5451 as the cabinet-level leader for the department will likely make more than $214,000 a year.

It would take two years for the agency to fully combine early childhood programs from other state agencies if it were made a law.

“And to redesign the system with parents, providers, and other important people,” Whalen said. “Most importantly, to make sure that families don’t lose their care, services, or support during this time of change.”

From that point on, she said, they were going to get regular comments from people who matter.

Concerns were made by State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, about how the costs of a new agency could take money away from other needs, such as K–12 education.

Scherer said, “But we have no idea where the money will come from or where we will take it away.”

With easy majorities, lawmakers have until May 31 to pass an annual plan for how the state will spend its money.

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