Illinois is one step closer to creating a department for early childhood education

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Illinois is one step closer to creating a new department that will house all child care and early childhood education programs after the state House passed a proposal to create the Department of Early Childhood Thursday afternoon.

The bill, which passed with a 93 to 18 vote, will head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval. Pritzker, who has championed creating an agency focused on early childhood programs, is likely to sign the bill.

Once signed into law, the bill would allow the Department of Early Childhood to begin work on July 1. The bill asks the state’s General Assembly to allocate a total of $13.1 million for support staffing and operations. By July 1, 2026, the department would manage programs such as early intervention for students with disabilities and the Child Care Assistance Program to support low-income families, as well as administer licenses for day care programs.

The state currently operates and funds child care and early childhood education programs under three departments: the state’s Department of Human Services, Illinois State Board of Education, and the Department of Children and Family Services.

State Rep. Mary Beth Canty, a Democrat representing Arlington Heights, was a sponsor of the House version of the bill and presented the Senate’s proposal to the House on Thursday afternoon. She told fellow lawmakers that creating a department focused only on early childhood education would make it more efficient for parents and providers.

“We see duplication of efforts, duplication of forms, and that means that we are not getting as many dollars into the programs that we need,” said Canty. “By creating this new agency housing all of these programs in one place, we can create more efficiency, transparency and ease of access for families and providers.”

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at