Tuesday, July 21, 2009

State education cuts slash early learning, mental health

From Voices for Illinois Children:

Young children who need early learning opportunities and youths who need mental health supports are paying an outrageously high price for Illinois leaders’ failure to raise adequate state revenues.

Early childhood programs are marked for funding cuts of one-third – $123.3 million – in budget decisions approved by the Illinois State Board of Education on Tuesday. That move would strip preschool help from more than 30,000 young children and developmental services from thousands more at-risk infants and toddlers.

"This budget immediately erases five years of progress in early learning," said Gaylord Gieseke, interim president of Voices for Illinois Children. "It also reverses years of hard work to extend mental health supports to thousands of kids throughout our state."

Early intervention, prevention and treatment priorities of the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership also are cut by one-third – or nearly $1 million – in the ISBE plans for FY2010.

These are just some of the cuts resulting from the irresponsible budget approved by the General Assembly and Governor last week. Legislators failed to agree on a revenue plan to adequately fill a multibillion-dollar budget hole and avoid massive reductions – leading to such ISBE cuts as:

· Bilingual education cut by 25 percent
· Alternative education cut by one-third
· Reading improvement and anti-truancy funding cut in half
· Homeless education funding eliminated

There are two ways to ease the pressures on children unnecessarily victimized by these cuts.

· Short-term: The Governor has access to about $1.2 billion in discretionary appropriations that he could use to avoid many of these cuts.

Contact Governor Quinn’s office today. Tell him that early childhood education and children's mental health are learning priorities that need greater funding for FY2010.

· Long-term: Tell your legislators and the Governor they must raise far greater revenues to protect children's education, health and human services – funding we could secure through an income tax increase like that envisioned in House Bill 174. State officials could revisit the issue of a tax increase in the coming months, and need to know that you support it.

Visit Voices' "Call for Kids" page (http://www.voices4kids.org/getinvolved/callforkids.html) to take action against budget cuts. And stay tuned for more budget updates, analysis and advocacy tips from Voices.

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