Fitch Advocates for Early-Childhood Education Funding
Tom Fitch, Vice President of O’Shea Builders, appeared before a state House Appropriations Committee in March to urge lawmakers to support a $50 million increase for voluntary preschool and vital, birth-to-3 services funded through the Illinois State Board of Education’s Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) in the state’s FY2016 budget.
The Governor has proposed a $25 million increase for preschool, but as Fitch testified, a $50 million increase would help the state begin to reverse years of cuts, help us return to work of pursuing our statutory goals for improving preschool and birth-to-3 opportunities, and capture new federal funding to focus intensive services on youngsters who struggle the most.
As Immediate Past Chairman of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and a member of ReadyNation, a network of about 110 business leaders across Illinois who aim to bolster our workforce through children’s learning and development, Fitch pointed to the benefits of early-childhood education during his testimony. “Research has shown that participating in high-quality early learning programs helps children enter school better-prepared for success and less likely to become involved in behavioral problems,” Fitch said. “These children are up to 44 percent more likely to graduate high school on time, and as much as 31 percent more likely to obtain jobs deemed ‘semi-skilled’ or higher. This is particularly important as the workforce ‘skills gap’ is growing wider between available jobs and the applicants who are well-prepared to fill those positions.”
In 2006, state leaders overwhelmingly approved the “Preschool for All,” making it a statutory goal to strengthen program access and quality over time, as resources allow, for all young children whose parents want to participate. "We’re still far short of meeting needs,” Fitch said, “particularly for the at-risk kids whom we prioritize for services. We need to return to our vision in order to help not only the children and parents who need it, but the businesses that would benefit from a well-skilled workforce.”