Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces new agency to oversee early childhood

Three kindergarten read books together with their teacher at a table with books and hand puppets of different animals.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans Tuesday to create a state agency focused on early childhood. (Samantha Smylie / Chalkbeat)

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Illinois is planning to create a state agency focused on early childhood, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

The new agency would oversee preschool funding and regulation and day care licensing, as well as early intervention, home visiting, and child care assistance programs. 

Currently, those programs operate under the Illinois State Board of Education, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Children and Family Services.

“When you have pieces of agencies that you’d like to bring together, we want to make sure that’s done in a way that’s cost effective,” Pritzker said Tuesday. He said the current system can be an “impossible bureaucracy” that’s difficult for both parents and providers to navigate.

“We need to make it so much easier,” he added. 

Pritzker will be signing an executive order to begin a “multi-year process” to create the new agency. The governor’s office said he will work with the legislature next spring to pass legislation to bring together programs for the state’s youngest residents and their families. 

The governor’s office said Ann Whalen will serve as transition director as the new agency is formed. Whalen has served as director of policy for the education advocacy organization Advance Illinois since 2019. 

An advisory committee will provide input and gather feedback. It will be led by Bela Moté, the chief executive officer of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, the governor’s office said.

Creating a separate agency focused on early childhood is another step in Pritzker’s work to make Illinois “number one” for child care access. In last year’s budget, the governor announced a $250 million four-year effort to expand preschool and child care. 

It’s not clear the size of the new agency or what its new budget will look like. The governor is expected to make his 2025 budget proposal in January. 

Becky Vevea is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Chicago. Contact Becky at bvevea@chalkbeat.org.    

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