For Immediate Release
July 19, 2011

State Board of Education to help fund more than 900 preschool programs

State awards $269.7 million to serve 77,500 children across the state

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today it has awarded $269.7 million in preschool grants to help fund about 936 programs serving 3- to 5-year-olds across the state in Fiscal Year 2012. The state funds, part of the Early Childhood Block Grant, will help prepare about 77,500 children for kindergarten and beyond.

“A good early childhood program gives children, especially those from low income families, a better chance to succeed in the classroom and in life,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We know that young children are eager to learn and these funds will go a long way toward developing their innate love for learning.”

Chicago Public Schools receives 37 percent of the Early Childhood Block Grant and determines which district schools and local agencies to approve for funding. This year, CPS approved 478 schools or agency centers to serve about 24,500 children.

Members of the ISBE staff and outside experts reviewed and scored 554 proposals from agencies and districts outside Chicago and approved 458 for funding in FY 2012. Reviewers took into consideration each program’s performance on previous grants and student demographics. In addition to considering programs of high quality, priority was given to those sites that serve a largely low-income population as well as those that serve a high percentage of Hispanic and African American children.

“Research shows that investment in our youngest learners is paying off by giving them a solid educational foundation, which they do carry forward,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “As we are challenged financially, we have to ensure that our investment in early childhood learning is targeted appropriately, focusing on children who need this extra preparation.”

Preschool grants have previously been awarded through a re-application process but for the first time in more than 20 years, the ISBE requested competitive bids for all programs in Fiscal Year 2012 to ensure that declining state resources serve the children most at risk of academic failure. Such at-risk children can include English Language Learners and children from low income families. The Early Childhood Block Grant has seen a decline in state funds of about $23 million since Fiscal Year 2008.

In addition to the preschool programs, funds from the Early Childhood Block Grant go toward services for the families of newborns to 3-year-olds.

The following districts have been awarded funds under the state’s Early Childhood Block grant for preschool programs in 2012: