Early childhood edu advocates urge legislators to invest in kids - FOX 32 News Chicago

Early childhood education advocates urge legislators to invest in Illinois kids

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Educators, parents and politicians gathered in Palos Heights Thursday to help Illinois' little ones get a head start – and let those in charge of the budget know that we only have on chance to get it right.

They're concerned that there could be cutbacks in funding for early childhood education because of the state's financial condition. 

They want our elected leaders, including Governor Quinn, Illinois' Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to know that quality teaching between ages 3 and 5 can pay lifelong dividends.

"The best thing that we do here is we really include all," Cathy Leslie said, "and they all benefit from each other."

Leslie is the director of the prekindergarten program at Indian Hill School at District 128 in Palos Heights. It's all about early childhood education at this school, where children as young as 3 start down a path to lifelong learning.

The classes are mixed when it comes to age, as well as ability. The school caters to at-risk children, special needs kids, those typically developed and accelerated young ones.

You can't tell because looks are deceiving, but there is trouble afoot here and every early childhood school in Illinois. 

Public funding is at risk because the state's finances are a mess. Educators worry that one day it could dry up altogether. 

Assistant Principal Mary Lynn Duffy has a message to our state leaders: don't cut early childhood funding for these kids, or society at large will suffer in the long run.

"You do watch them develop over time," Duffy said. "You see the changes that occur, and there is no doubt that there is a difference. The biggest amount of learning happens between the ages of 3 and 5."

Duffy, and many other educators, thinks the boat is upside down. She said those allocating funds will get the biggest return if they invest in early childhood education, because the path to success begins here.

Advocates want to remind legislators that Illinois children are not only competing with kids from other districts in the state, but with children across the country, in states where education funding is not so hard to come by.

They want to remind state lawmakers that in this global economy, early childhood education is key, and Illinois needs to get its act together.

 

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