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, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.






(More History)