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Reactions mixed to Quinn’s ‘Birth-to-Five’ initiative

By Tobias Wall
Staff Writer

Gov. Pat Quinn’s announcement of planned expansions to early childhood health-care and education programs is striking a chord with advocacy groups and care providers.

While some groups praise the governor’s agenda, others are skeptical the state is in the financial position to follow through.

“The realities in recent years have been that some of these programs have been hit hard by budget cuts,” Voices for Illinois Children fiscal policy director Larry Joseph said Thursday.

Joseph said 20,000 fewer children have been able to attend preschool programs as a result of the 20 percent cut in funding over the last five years to the Early Childhood Block Grant.

“We strongly support all three elements of the governor’s agenda,” Joseph said. “But none of the components of the initiative can achieve their goals if we don’t have adequate and stable revenue.”

He said that if temporary income tax rate increases are allowed to expire at the end of the year, the resulting loss in revenue spells trouble for the programs Quinn plans to bolster through the initiative.

A statement released by Voices for Illinois Children said that Quinn’s announcement came on the heels of a similar call from President Obama during his State of the Union address Tuesday. The president noted 30 states increased funding for preschool programs in the last year.

Illinois wasn’t one of them.

“Illinois must do better. Thanks to our shared hard work over the years, our elected officials know the proven benefits of early childhood education and care,” the release stated. “We must continue to work together to make sure that the General Assembly and Congress act to make early childhood a top priority.”

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Read the full State Journal-Register article.

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