University of Illinois Urbana‑Champaign

Governer seeks more money for Smart Start, new early childhood department

Published: February 23, 2024

In this year’s State of the State and budget address, Gov. JB Pritzker proposed a $150 million increase in funding for the second year of his “Smart Start Illinois” initiative to expand access to early childhood education.

He said the increase would be used to create 5,000 more preschool seats, continue growing child care, and reach thousands more families with critical early childhood services.

The governor said the Smart Start program helped add more than 5,800 preschool seats in Illinois in its first year. If the state sticks with his Smart Start plan, Prtizker said, Illinois will achieve universal preschool by 2027.

Pritzker is also seeking $13 million for the first phase of consolidating state government’s early childhood programs into one agency that will be called the Department of Early Childhood.