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Start Early (formerly the Ounce of Prevention Fund) gives children in poverty the best chance for success in school and in life by advocating for the highest quality care and education from birth to age 5. Our other key ally in Illinois — Illinois Action for Children — works with Start Early to play a leadership role in convening the Quality Alliance, a decades-old coalition of more than 40 early childhood organizations.

State Allies:

Illinois Action for Children • Chicago, IL
Start Early • Chicago, IL
Top Priorities for 2021

Grow and strengthen the state’s early care and education system through an FY22 budget that invests significant dollars in core early childhood programs, including child care, home visiting, Early Intervention, and state-funded preschool, among others. Prioritize increased funding to address minimizing salary disparities in the system.

Strengthen the early childhood workforce through identification of and advocacy for innovations in higher education to improve access to early childhood career pathways.

Build a broader base of support for significant early childhood investments in FY21 and beyond through complementary messaging linking the efforts of the Quality Alliance, the funding commission coalition, and the prenatal-to-three coalition.

Illinois’ 2020 Early Childhood Policy Landscape and Progress:

Estimated FY20 State General Fund Expenditures

House (D), Senate (D)
Governor (D)

495,760 Young Children (0-8) are Below 200% FPL

Considering the fiscal climate in Illinois, early childhood policy advocates generally consider retaining flat funding for all early childhood programs a victory. In May, the legislature approved a $42.8 billion budget for FY2021 that maintains and, in some instances, increases funding for early care and education programs and services.

*Early childhood policy progress in a state is the result of numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

More from Illinois:

illinois Early Childhood Policy

Illinois Announces Significant Expansion of Financial Assistance for Families Seeking Child Care and Providers

Illinois has announced a significant expansion of financial assistance for both families and providers that allow children to return to quality, affordable child care programs. Eighty percent of families will pay less for child care under this latest round of changes, to be administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

Read More »

Download the full 50-State report.

The Alliance for Early Success 2020 50-State Progress Report on Early Childhood Policy expands state data (disaggregating low-income young children by race) and provides high-level state policy trend analysis for the nation as a whole. Click the icon to download the report.

State Budget Data: National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), “Table 4: Fiscal 2020 State General Fund, Estimated (Millions); The Fiscal Survey of the States.” Spring, 2020

Low-Income Data (including disaggregation by race): National Center for Children in Poverty, “NCCP Analysis of ACS 1-year Estimates—Public Use Microdata Sample, 2019.”

State Action Data: Provided by state advocates, October-November 2020, with analysis and synthesis by Frontera Strategy for Alliance for Early Success, “Protecting Progress and Investing in Scale: The 2020 50-State Progress Report on Early Childhood Education Policy.”

Additional State Actions: Mincic, Melissa,  Early Care and Education, State Budget Actions, Fiscal Year 2020. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), October 2020. 


The Alliance for Early Success is achieving large-scale, long-lasting change for the state’s young children by providing our allies with powerful advantages that help them shape Illinois early childhood state policy.

Strategic, Outcomes-Focused Investments

Consulting and Strategy

Technical Support from National Expertise

Rapid Response Support

Connections/Access to Allies in Similar States

Roles in National Communities of Practice