Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently promised a partial restoration of cuts previously made to early childhood education and an increase in funding for K-12 education. However, we are deeply concerned about the proposed budget cuts that restrict access to critical human services like Early Intervention (EI). EI is a critical component of the early childhood and K-12 learning continuum as services are provided in the earliest years to prepare children to enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school.
EI is a voluntary educational program for families with children birth through ago two with disabilities or developmental delays. EI helps support families in promoting their child's optimal development by embedding education and therapeutic strategies into family routines. Research shows that providing EI services to children and families who need it improves a child's overall well-being as well as health and academic outcomes.
Governor Rauner has proposed eliminating $23 million from EI by increasing the extent to which a child must exhibit developmental delays to be eligible for services from 30 percent to 50 percent. If enacted, approximately 4,000 children would not receive services in Fiscal Year 2016 (starting July 1, 2015), and Illinois will likely see a 50 percent reduction in statewide services within a few years. Ironically, it is children with mild to moderate developmental delays who actually benefit the most from EI as they are more likely to avoid needing expensive remediation or special education services upon kindergarten entry. It is in the State and school districts' best interests to actually reach more, not less, children birth through age two with mild to moderate delays.
What can you do? Call on Governor Rauner and members of the Illinois General Assembly and urge them to advance a Fiscal Year 2016 budget that provides adequate funding for EI and other early childhood programs so that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.