I am writing in response to the Thursday, March 29, article in the newspaper about the Bright Beginnings preschool being discontinued.
As the director of this program, I would like to make some clarifications. Yes, the board of education made a major reduction in force. This reduction is only because the Bright Beginnings and Early Beginnings programs are funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant through the Illinois State Board of Education. This grant is submitted every year in the spring and then, during the summer, the school district will receive notification as to the amount that will be approved. After the grant has been approved, the staff can then be rehired.
Being a grant program, until the district knows it will receive the grant for the following year, the board must reduce staff just in case the grant doesn’t come through.
In Gov. Pat Quinn’s Feb. 22 budget address, he said, “Learning begins at birth, and those first years of a child’s life are the most important. Research has shown that without an early learning foundation, children fall behind in school. Illinois, we can’t leave our youngest behind.” In his budget proposal, Gov. Quinn proposed the restoration of $20 million to the Early Childhood Block Grant bringing the total to $345.1 million. This is still less than the FY 2009 total of $380.3 million.
The governor’s budget now goes to the legislature to be debated over the coming months. When the legislature passes the final budget, the Illinois State Board of Education will be notified as to the amount of money allocated to the Early Childhood Block Grand.
I want people to know that I am optimistic we will once again be funded just as we have been for the last 23 years. We are planning for the 2012-13 school year in all the ways we have done so in the past.
PES Early Childhood