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Funding Shortages For Early Education In Illinois, Missouri

Illinois and Missouri have less funding in 2015 for early-education programs then they had planned due to discrepancies between the amounts budgeted for these programs and the funds that are actually avaialble. 

In Illinois, that means 100,000 low-income families could lose their child-care subsidies if state leaders can't find a way to fund the program, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.

Illinois' Department of Human Services recently announced that it's short $300 million needed to pay for the child-care assistance program through June, according the Tribune. Widespread day-care closures have not started yet, but providers have indicated that they will have to close if the state stops payments for any length of time.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, is new to the office and has not yet made clear whether funding the day-care program will be a priority.

According to the Tribune:

The shortfall is rooted in the budget the Democratic-led General Assembly and then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn passed in the spring. The spending plan was widely viewed as not having enough money to get through a full year because the state income tax rate was scheduled to start rolling back Jan. 1.

Ordinarily, lawmakers would have taken up the budget shortfalls after the election, but Rauner asked them not to do anything substantive in the lame-duck session. That left the new governor with a series of immediate financial challenges, with the Illinois Department of Corrections also in danger of running out of money to pay overtime for prison guards.

Providers and advocates are hoping that Rauner's wife, Diana Rauner, who heads The Ounce of Prevention Fund, which provides assistance to low-income kids and families from the Chicago area, might have some sway in getting the governor to move child care to the top of the funding list.

In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon has not spent as much money on early education as he said he would while proposing funding increases for state programs last year.

Nixon, a Democrat, held back funding for a home-visiting program, the Missouri Preschool Program, and child-care subsidies for low-income families, according to a story by the AP:

Gov. Jay Nixon has repeatedly described high-quality preschool programs as a great investment for the state while proposing millions in additional funding for early-childhood efforts.

But Nixon has shortchanged his own proposals by cutting funding approved by the Legislature for such programs, because he says the state doesn't have enough revenue to do what he would like.

"We don't have the money. There's a big difference between what's in a budget and what's in a bank account," Nixon said last week. "Early childhood is important, and as the economy gets moving forward we'd love nothing more than to get those dollars out there."

Altogether, Nixon asked for and received several million in increased funding for early-education programs that he now says is not available given the state's current fiscal circumstances.

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