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The lead convening advocacy groups in Illinois are Start Early (formerly the Ounce of Prevention Fund) and Illinois Action for Children. Start Early advances quality early learning for families with children, before birth through their earliest years, to help close the opportunity gap. Illinois Action for Children organizes and supports families and communities where children matter most. IAFC and Start Early work in partnership and coalition with many organizations, including the Quality Alliance, a decades-old coalition of more than 40 early childhood organizations, the We, The Village coalition of over 90 organizations which launched the Right To Care campaign, and Raising Illinois, a coalition of more than one hundred organizations focused on investment and policy change in the prenatal and first three years of life.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 36% (469,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 40% (554,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget of June 7. The grand total of all appropriations (including new appropriations, continuing appropriations, and reappropriations) is $193.5 billion for fiscal 2024, 2.3 percent above fiscal 2023’s total. Appropriations for general funds, special state funds, and highway funds saw increases in fiscal 2024, while appropriations for federal trust funds, bond financed funds, and debt service funds declined. The budget calls for general fund spending of $49.1 billion in fiscal 2024, a 2.9 percent increase from fiscal 2023. Total state taxes are projected at $51.7 billion in fiscal 2024, a 2.5 percent increase from fiscal 2023. The enacted budget assumes an adjusted general fund surplus of $45 million following a budget stabilization fund contribution of $138 million.3

Largest FY 2021 Revenue Sources Per Capita (after federal transfers):4

    • Property Taxes: $2,444 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $1,710 per capita

Illinois uses all major state and local taxes. 

Political Alignment: Aligned Democrat

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Democrat controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Democrat.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Three

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – An amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statute – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

The Illinois General Assembly approved, and Governor JB Pritzker signed into law the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) spending plan, which contains historic investments in the early care and education system, including proposed measures outlined in the administration’s multi-year Smart Start Illinois plan.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

The FY 2024 state budget a $295 million increase in state funding for the state’s early care and education system, which includes:

    • $170m (41.4%) increase in state funding for the state’s child care system

$100 million for new child care workforce compensation contracts

$50 million to support the subsidy program’s growing caseload

$20 million to update the state’s child care management data system

    • $75 million (12.5%) increase in state funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant:

Nearly $20 million investment into the state’s Prevention Initiative program, which supports home visiting and center-based programming for children 0-3

Increased salaries for staffing working in ECBG-funded programs operated by community-based organizations

The creation of at least 5,000 new preschool slots in schools and child care centers

    • $40 million (34.5%) increase in state funding for the Early Intervention (EI) program:

$20 million to increase by 10% the reimbursement rate for EI providers and to adjust salaries for service coordinators working in the program

$20 million to support the program’s growing caseload

$5 million (27.9%) increase in state funds for evidence-based home visiting programs at IDHS:

A cost-of-living adjustment for existing home visitors

The creation of new home visiting slots

    • $5 million in brand-new funding at ISBE to support inclusion in schools and community-based early childhood settings for preschoolers with disabilities and developmental delays.

The final FY 2024 Budget Implementation Act makes permanent in law the current income eligibility threshold (225% of FPL) for the state’s child care program and an increase of 25% from 200% FPL.

SB 1794 establishes in law the existing IDHS home visiting programs.

SB 2390 extends for five years a current flexibility that allows staff with a certain child care credential to teach in a state-funded preschool classroom, provided they are working to secure their teaching license.

HB 2396 requires school boards to offer full-day kindergarten.

Advocates and policymakers also engaged in serious discussions for several months about the creation of a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program, though ultimately no legislation was approved by the General Assembly.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantees in Illinois, Start Early and Illinois Action for Children, are working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Preschool and Pre-K


Child and
Maternal Health

Early Intervention (Age 0-3)

Infant and Child Health

Maternal Health



Family Economic Security

Paid Family & Medical Leave

Home Visiting

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Finance and Cost Modeling

Early Childhood Governance

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.

illinois Early Childhood Policy

Illinois Advocates Centered Lived Experiences to Strengthen Access to Early Care and Education for Families Involved in the Child Welfare System

Illinois advocates worked with the state legislature and the Pritzker administration to pass Public Act 102-926. The approved legislation includes proposals developed by the state’s Early Learning Council, with support from Start Early and Illinois Action for Children. The Council’s recommendations were informed by the lived experiences of parents who access early childhood services for their children.

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1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: