Quinn Lays Out Ed. Initiatives But Doubts Arise

Jan 29, 2014

Governor Quinn spent much of his State of the State address on Wednesday addressing education. He says investing in education is a sure way to grow jobs as well as the economy. It's a sentiment that's hard to argue with. His focus on early education was an echo of President Obama's own emphasis on the subject in his last two State of the Union addresses, and Quinn has also previously pushed the idea of making pre-K more widely available. New this year though, Quinn says he wants to double the amount of MAP scholarships offered, which help low-income students attend state universities. While his education points may be considered laudable by many, there's still the big question of where the funding for these ideas could come from.

Mike Bost is a Republican representative from Murphysboro who sits on the House's Higher Ed Committee. He says Quinn, "...didn't say where he's coming up with the money. That is a little bit of a concern for me with the higher ed because ... the funding has not been brought to the level that it should have been since Rod Blagojevich." Bost warns state-run colleges are raising tuition too high and that middle class students are having an increasingly hard time being able to afford it. 

You can read some transcripts of Quinn's SOTS address below that lay out his position and plans on some aspects of education.

(Lee Strubinger contributed to this blog post.)

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"We’ve also been making progress when it comes to preparing our workforce for 21st century jobs. Just on IllinoisJobLink.com – our employment opportunity website -- there are more than 130,000 jobs available right now. But many of these jobs require very specific skills. That’s why preparing our workers for high-skill, in-demand jobs is a top priority. To help us fill those jobs, we’ve mobilized our education system behind our ‘60 by 2025’ goal: 60% of our adult workforce with a degree or career certificate by the year 2025.

We’ve been exceeding our targets every year. Since 2008, our community colleges have grown the number of people graduating with degrees and career certificates by more than 30 percent. We’ve also expanded dual enrollment and early college opportunities for qualified students.

But we can’t finish the job if deserving students aren’t able to afford a college education. So, over the next five years – let’s double the number of MAP college scholarships for students in need in Illinois.  Our MAP scholarship program currently helps 140,000 students go to college. Students like Shomarie Jackson, Adriana Rivas, and Howard Brown, who are here today. By doubling the number of MAP scholarships, we can make sure deserving students in need are equipped to excel in the 21st century workplace."


"At-risk children who don’t receive early childhood education are:

• 25% more likely to drop out of school

• 40% more likely to become a teen parent

• 50% more likely to be placed in special education

• 60% more likely to never attend college

• And 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

Scripture tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." That’s why today I’m calling for a bold Birth to Five Initiative that will be focused on three keys to a healthy child: prenatal care, access to early learning opportunities and strong parent support.

This initiative actually starts before a mother gives birth to her child by ensuring that she has access to prenatal services throughout her pregnancy. The good news is that prenatal care is already available to expectant mothers with modest incomes through existing programs. Yet 25% of our low-income mothers are not receiving the prenatal care they need. Children pay the price. Mothers who do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby which leads to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, learning difficulties and poor development.

And taxpayers pay the price. The cost of a birth where the baby is low-weight is five times that of a normal birth. In addition to significant medical needs that eventually burden the system, these children often require early intervention services, remedial education, and grade repetition. And they lose out on the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Through our Birth to Five Initiative, over the next five years, we will work with our community partners—schools, hospitals, and faith-based organizations – to identify expectant mothers and connect them to prenatal services. We can ensure more children are born into the opportunities they deserve and we can save taxpayer money. But we won’t stop there. When the human brain is forming early in a child’s life, it provides a critical window of opportunity to develop key academic, social and cognitive skills that will determine success in school and in life.

That’s why the second pillar of our Birth to Five Initiative is to provide every child with access to quality early learning opportunities. This is especially important for our African American and Latino children ... We already have the foundation in place for early childhood learning. In 2009, I established the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development. And as a result, we secured federal grants from Race to the Top that are allowing us to deliver high-quality early care and education programs.

By properly investing in our existing early learning programs and making this a budget priority…we can transform lives and save taxpayer money. But we can’t stop there. A parent is a child’s first teacher. Moms and dads play the most important role in promoting the healthy development of their kids. But not all families are equipped with the information and support they need to create healthy learning environments.

That’s why the third critical part of our Birth to Five Initiative calls for ensuring parents have the support and services they need. Family involvement during preschool is linked with stronger pre-literacy skills, math skills, social skills and positive attitudes. Over the next five years, we'll connect families to a range of services and training opportunities to help them support their children’s education. We'll expand our home visiting program and build on our innovative community partnerships in places like East St. Louis, Aurora, North Lawndale, and Marion.

Once our Birth to Five Initiative is fully implemented, mothers will be connected with prenatal care to ensure the healthy birth and development of their children. Children in Illinois will have access to quality early learning, starting at birth. And parents will have the tools to lead their children toward success in school, college, career and beyond. Illinois can lead the nation in early childhood education. We have the foundation in place. Now is the time to get the job done for Illinois’ littlest."