As a result of the differences in early childhood environments and experiences, approximately two-thirds of the achievement gap challenging Oak Park and River Forest schools is in place when children walk through the kindergarten door. Collaboration Council members and friends, you have stepped up to change this picture.

I am so excited about the great strides the Collaboration for Early Childhood has taken to create an integrated system of high quality early childhood programs for children, prenatal to kindergarten age in Oak Park and River Forest. Our common agenda guides the ground-breaking work of our partners, staff, and volunteers in so many areas–increasing early childhood care and education providers’ access to professional development, boosting developmental screening, and providing support for our youngest families.

The robust data system we are developing will track the improvements in outcomes, and enable us to make any needed course corrections.

This is amazing stuff, and you are a key part of it all.

Of course, the state budget picture right now is extremely challenging. We live in a state that has just cut eligibility limits for child care subsidies for working parents by 73%, to the point where a parent making minimum wage is disqualified for making too much money.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Under Governor Rauner’s “emergency” rule, 90% of low-income working parents who used to qualify now are ineligible. (Visit Voice for Illinois Children for details.) Providers of Early Intervention services are not being paid. Many of the crucial small businesses that provide child care in centers and family homes, and the state systems that help drive improvements through quality ratings and professional training, will be devastated.

The Collaboration is a “backbone” organization for the community-wide efforts of many, many agencies, elected officials and jurisdictions, and dedicated individuals to change the trajectory for children who would otherwise fall behind. The role of the Collaboration is to bring these partners together and empower the community to engage with the issue of how to give every child the best chance for success from the start.

We are finding that the state budget crisis looms large in many aspects of our work to improve early childhood outcomes in our own community.

The co-chair of the Responsible Budget Coalition, Dan Lesser, will join the Collaboration Council meeting this Friday (9:15 AM, Village Hall, room 101) to share the latest strategies about what we can do to save the state’s early childhood infrastructure before it is irreparably damaged. I hope you can join us then.

Please visit our website regularly for news and updates on how we can work together to meet this challenge. Our Early Childhood Advocacy page has links to organizations actively engaged in policy work.


Ann Courter
Chair, Collaboration Board of Directors

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