BELLEVILLE, Ill. – State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, is applauding the initial results of Smart Start, a comprehensive plan to build out Illinois’ early childhood education system, expand access to affordable childcare and ensure children have the support they need to succeed.
“Early childhood education helps children develop a more stable foundation before entering school,” Hoffman said. “By prioritizing investment in Smart Start, we’re already seeing the positive impact in low-income areas. Thousands of preschoolers are now able to begin a learning journey that otherwise would have been delayed.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited Belleville earlier this week to highlight data from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) noting the addition of 5,886 new preschool seats in preschool deserts, exceeding the state’s first year goal of 5,000. Preschool deserts are identified as areas of the state with too few publicly funded preschool seats to serve 80% of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds in the area.
Under Smart Start, the state aims to fully eliminate preschool deserts within four years.
“This is an encouraging start, but there’s more work ahead,” Hoffman said. “We have to continue to invest in our early childhood system, attract quality educators and prioritize working families with the resources they need.”