Our Policy Statement

Illinois' competitiveness in a global economy depends upon academic achievement. To succeed, students must enter school ready to learn and navigate the transitions to high school, post-secondary study and work.

To ensure children receive a quality education and stay in school through graduation, United Way will:

Education-Related Research

National Institute for Early Education Research

The Great Recession was hard on pre-K nationwide, as budgets saw fewer dollars and quality suffered. By the 2012-13 school year, though, The State of Preschools 2013 reported a glimmer of hope: Budgets for many state pre-K programs leveled off and some even saw funding increases. Overall, state funding for pre-K increased $30.6 million, “a small step towards reversing nearly a half a billion dollars in cuts in the previous school year, but it is a step in the right direction.” At the same time, there was little progress on quality standards.

Illinois ranked 18th nationwide in access for 4-year-olds with 27% attending pre-K in 2012-13. It did better in access for 3-year-olds, ranking 4th with 18% attending to pre-K. Quality standards are another bright spot for Illinois, with an 8 out of 10 scoring. The state is 31st, though, in state spending and 28th in all reported spending when additional revenue sources, such as federal, are included.

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes

Interest in child assessment measures in state-funded pre-K and kindergarten classrooms led to the Center’s analysis of data in the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool Yearbook. That analysis, State of the State Policy Snapshot: State Early Childhood Assessment Policies, found the following:

The State of the State Policy Snapshot highlighted Illinois’ Kindergarten Corner webpage, as well as the state’s Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) and A New Beginning: The Illinois Kindergarten Individual Survey.

Center for Law and Public Policy

Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality says children experiencing poverty and related circumstances benefit most from high-quality early care and education programs. This statement is the backdrop of a report that looks at the percentages of young children in each state experiencing risks related to poor educational outcomes and the trends in federal and state investments in early care and education programs, as well as state policies related to both access and quality.

Family economic hardship is the primary factor related to academic failure and poor health. State poverty rates for children under age 6 range from 13% to 36%. Across the U.S., 25% of children under age 6 live in poverty and 12% live in extreme poverty, defined as less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Level. Risk factors associated with living in a low-income family include living with a teen mother (5% in Illinois), in a household without English speakers (almost 7% in Illinois) or parents who lack a high school degree (about 9% in Illinois).

Federal and state investments in programs that would benefit at-risk children have decreased in recent years. For example, total spending on child care assistance (including federal and state Child Care and Development Block Grant, and federal and state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds) declined from $13 billion to $12.5 billion from 2007 to 2011.

Regarding pre-K programs, total state spending increased from 2006 to 2010 – with the largest increase of $900 million occurring between 2007 and 2008 – before decreasing $400 million from 2011 to 2012.