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While the Governor’s Education Funding Commission has been focused on elementary and secondary schools, a bipartisan group of legislators think early childhood deserves more attention.  Five legislators who sit on the commission, shared their thoughts at a forum with students at the Erikson Institute, a Chicago based graduate school in child development.

“Research into education funding concludes that investment in early childhood development—birth to age 4yields the greatest return on the dollar,” said State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore), one of the legislative panelists.  “The legislature has increased funding for early childhood programs in the past two years, but additional new money will be very difficult to find in the next few years.”

Instead, the legislators encouraged the various non-profit organizations and state agencies working with children to better coordinate efforts and share resources.  Pritchard pointed out funding sources and state agencies often operate in silos leading to duplication of services, gaps in service and confusion for families.  This is a major source of frustration for both advocates and legislators he said.

Earlier this year Governor Rauner created the Cabinet on Children and Youth to bring together agencies that deal with children in any capacity.  The intent is to open communication, break down barriers, discuss coordination of efforts and assure that children receive the well-rounded support they need for a bright future.  

Pritchard shared that the early child centers in his region are working together through an organization named Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) to increase parenting skills, improve services for children and maximize grant and federal funding.  Other areas of the state are not as fortunate and many areas lack support for families and quality childcare centers he added.  

The legislators agreed that childcare advocates can help educate legislators who may not understand the value of early child development and its impact on a child’s ability to learn later in school.  Advocates can also help set state spending priorities and policies supporting a child’s early learning.

The other legislative members on the panel included Senators Kim Lightford (D-Westchester) and Karen McConnaughay (R-West Dundee), and Representatives Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) and Will Davis (D-East Hazel Crest).

DeKalb County Make A Difference is seeking volunteers to help meet their goal of preparing 1 million meals for children in need. For more information or to volunteer, click here

A new plant, expected to bring 400 jobs is set to open in Belvidere. Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, the world's largest supplier of automotive interior components, recently announced its plans to open up a new facility to supply interior cockpit components to the Jeep Cherokee, which will be built at the Fiat Chrysler assembly plant also located in Belvidere. The Shanghai based company announced that the plant is expected to open in 2017. 

Job openings can be found at Yanfeng's website.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to 
October 3, 2016

In This Issue:
  •  Share Your Views about Education on Wednesday
  •  Fiscal Outlook Remains Bleak
  •  Local Innovators Inspired by the Past
  •  Proposed Constitutional Amendment Explained
  • Registering to Vote on Election Day Modified
  •  Illinois Makes Strides in Technology
  • Driving Refresher Course Offered Next Week
  • Time to Bring Suicide Out of the Darkness
Share Your Views about Education on Wednesday
The Illinois State Board of Education is asking area residents for input about how it should apply the new federal education law to educating children in Illinois.  Teachers, parents and community members are urged to attend a feedback session on Wednesday October 5th from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the DeKalb County Center for Agriculture at 1350 W. Prairie Drive, Sycamore. 
The state board has prepared a draft plan (available here) but there is plenty of room for local input.  Some of the questions that will be raised at the meeting include how we should measure student growth, programs necessary so every child progresses and ways to help teachers and school leaders better respond to the diversity and needs of students today.
The final plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education next spring and rolled out in Illinois schools next fall.  Educating our children is a community effort and we all benefit when children learn the skills and values to be productive citizens and lead our communities in the future. 
Late last year congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing No Child Left Behind. On October 5th, ISBE is conducting a listening tour to discuss the state's plan to implement the federal law. ISBE is looking for input from school staff, administrators, parents, and students. To see the questions that State Superintendent Tony Smith is looking to answer, click here. If you would like to view the state's current draft plan, click here

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance for seniors and people with disabilities today. LIHEAP and the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program are funded as part of the stopgap funding plan signed into law by Governor Rauner.

LIHEAP is a state and federally funded energy assistance program for low-income families, in which heating bill payments are made on behalf of households. Applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies around the state. These agencies will begin accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis from the elderly and people with disabilities starting today, September 1st.

Congressman Randy Hultgren invited government officials from around the congressional district, including State Representative Bob Pritchard, to a meeting on Tuesday August 30th to discuss federal and local efforts to combat heroin abuse and overdoses. The meeting was to address what federal, state and local governments are doing to combat the exponentially rising heroin and opioid overdose rates in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdoses from heroin, prescription drugs, and opioid pain relievers surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in America last year. 

Earlier this summer President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in to law. The law establishes grant programs to non profits and state and local governments that would expand prevention and education efforts while also promoting treatment and recovery. Part of the meeting was to make local officials aware of these new grant opportunities.