Quick facts about Illinois

State of Illinois
  1. Approximately 1 million children under age 6

  2. Just under 40% are Low Income, including 20% in poverty.

  3. Chicago is home to 37% of Children with High Needs under age 6.

  4. Latino population is growing rapidly across the State, including in suburban and rural communities.

  5. About 1 in 4 children born in the past year in Illinois is Latino.
Early Learning Challenge Fund
In the game of global economic competitiveness, Illinois and America are falling behind. In an attempt to "catch up", there is a strong push to invest more resources in early care and education. Research shows this is a wise investment.  In his renowned work, Nobel laureate economist James Heckman proves that investing in early childhood development programs - particularly for low-income children - provides a 10 percent annual return to society through increased achievement. 
"The best long-term economic plan Illinois can have is a solid education system that prepares our children for a 21st century workforce", Governor Quinn said in a press release.
Illinois has long embraced early childhood as a powerful way to ensure the healthy development of its most at-risk populations and close the achievement gap prior to kindergarten.  Illinois' overarching goal for its early learning and development system is to ensure that every child in the state enters kindergarten safe, healthy, ready to succeed and eager to learn.
Since 1993, the McCormick Foundation has invested nearly $100 million in pursuit of building a system of quality early care and education in Illinois. In recent years, the Foundation has provided funding to launch the statewide kindergarten readiness assessment as well as the birth to three standards.
Despite the State's best efforts, thousands of Illinois children enter kindergarten each year without the developmental foundation for success. And while Illinois has achieved great consensus around this vision of universal and targeted supports, the state recognizes that it does not yet have the additionalresources it would need to convert the vision to a reality. 
On Dec. 6 , 2012 Illinois was awarded a $34.8 million Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support quality early childhood education in Illinois. The federal grant will allow Illinois to make a big leap forward in systems building that is required to bring its vision to fruition.

Illinois' comprehensive application - a team effort funded and supported by several local foundations, including McCormick - is designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of early childhood education in Illinois by taking a patchwork of early learning programs and integrating them into a unified system and increasing early childhood program quality—making sure that all programs provide quality education and helping already good programs become great.

Specifically the grant will be used to create a new Quality Rating and Improvement System to inform parents about program quality through a website that will be fully implemented in July 2014. In addition, the grant will help communities connect children with the greatest needs to high-quality programs, strengthen the quality of early learning programs, and support the development of great teachers for early learning programs. These funds will help ensure Illinois children enter kindergarten with the necessary skills and knowledge for success.

To learn more about Illinois' plan, click here

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Robert R. McCormick Foundation
205 N. Michigan Ave.
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Chicago, IL 60601
312.445.5044
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