Advocates seek restoration of early childhood education funds


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Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013, 6:33 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com
Cutbacks in early childhood education mean 200 fewer children attended state-funded preschool last last year in Rock Island County compared to 2010, according to a coalition of childcare advocates.

Meanwhile, general state aid for schools in Illinois now has shrunk to its 2007 level, as the state continues to battle with the rising costs of public pensions.

Combined, the cutbacks "act as a powerful force to keep children from receiving the education they deserve and depend on to do well in life," said Paula Corrigan-Halpern, policy advocacy director with Voices for Illinois Children.

"The reduction in general state aid and the loss of Preschool for All Programs is a one-two punch for some of the districts serving large numbers of low-income students," Ms. Corrigan-Halpern said at a legislative forum in Moline organized by Voices in Action for QC Children.

The state's deep fiscal problems and the resulting cutbacks to services that support children from low-income backgrounds will come back to bite Illinois in the future, speakers at the forum said.

Funding for the Department of Children and Family Services was reduced by 13 percent or $105 million last year, the deepest cut absorbed by any major state agency.

Ms. Corrigan-Halpern said the funding should be restored to "ensure the safety and well-being of the state's most vulnerable children.

She spoke before 140 people at the annual legislative forum organized by Voices in Action for QC Children, a coalition of local childcare organizations that includes the Child Abuse Council and Skip-a-Long Child Development Services.

State lawmakers from the Illinois and Iowa sides of the Quad-Cities also spoke at the forum.

Ms. Corrigan-Halpern urged the Illinois lawmakers to restore the $25 million cut to the fiscal year 2013 early childhood block grant budget.State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, responded he expected the funding would be restored this year.

The funding is particularly important as children who fall behind in fundamental skills early are unlikely to make up that ground, Ms. Corrigan-Halpern said.

Sue Swisher, Executive Director of the Child Abuse Council, another speaker at the forum, said high poverty rates among children needed to be addressed.

In Rock Island County, 19.9 percent of children live in poverty, with 20.2 percent of children in Scott County below the poverty line, according to the most recent statistics.

"It's particularly troubling that increasing numbers of children and families are being left behind," Ms. Swisher said. "It's going to take years for many families with children to recover from the Great Recession."

State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, said the state's ballooning debt, which now includesan estimated $97 billion pension-funding deficit and more than $9 billion in unpaid bills, made it difficult to deal with problems highlighted by childcare advocates.

The forum was held on Friday at the Stoney Creek Inn, Moline.Laurie Walker, chief executive officer of Skip-A-Long Child Development Services, concluded the event by urging those present to put pressure on elected officials to make sure they address the needs of local children.





















 



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  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.






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