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Kids Count 2013: Illinois Kids Lose Out on Pre-School and Child Care

Deep budget cuts have excluded thousands of IL kids from pre-school   Courtesy of: voices4kids.org
Deep budget cuts have excluded thousands of IL kids from pre-school Courtesy of: voices4kids.org
February 14, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The new Kids Count 2013 report, to be released this morning, concludes that great recession and state budget cuts are threatening the future of Illinois children, especially when it comes to preschool and child care. Voices for Illinois Children President Gaylord Gieseke (GEE-ski) and other child advocates are visiting the offices of new state lawmakers to see if they can get the focus back on Illinois kids. Image: Photo of a preschool class.

During his State of the Union Address, President Obama stressed the need for preschool for all children as a way to secure the nation's future. But a new study finds thousands of kids in Illinois are losing out on that opportunity. The Kids Count 2013 report says that Illinois used to be a nationwide leader in early childhood education opportunities, but not anymore.

Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children, said the last four years of budget cuts have shut out 20,000 children a year from state-funded preschool.

"That we are very concerned about. And we're hoping that in this session we may turn that around a bit."

President Obama may have helped the cause by pointing to studies that tie early childhood education to higher graduation rates and success as adults. Geiseke said cuts to child-care funding have also hurt Illinois families, at a time when they can least afford it. The poverty rate among Illinois children is stagnating at 20 percent.

Gieseke said she understands that lawmakers have difficult choices to make, but she warned that now is not the time to cut back on critical support for Illinois children.

"We're very concerned that there are more kids than ever in the state living in poverty," she said, "and the number of kids in the state has risen, so the need for pre-school has definitely not changed."

Even though the need for affordable child care has grown, she said, over the past two years many low-income parents have had to dig deeper to afford state-subsidized child care.

"For a single-parent family with two children at 150 percent of the poverty level, co-payments rose from $85 to $180 per month," she said.

Gieseke is also concerned about cuts in mental health programs and the Department of Children and Family Services budget. The one bright spot in the report: health insurance. It said that more than 96 percent of Illinois children now have access to health insurance.

The report, which will be released today at 10 a.m., can be found at www.voices4kids.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL