Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed a bill approving the $300 million Early Education Block Grant Program, which guarantees at least 14% of state grant money will go towards educating children from ages 0-3, according to a report by Erin Carlson of NBC-TV Chicago.
With more and more evidence that early education can help children avoid trouble and succeed academically later in life, as reported by EducationNews, Quinn put his signature on House Bill 4400.
"The period from birth to three years of age is the most critical time in a child's development and we must do all we can to give our youngest residents the education they need to succeed in life," Quinn said. "We should also let our top educators know how much we appreciate their efforts, especially when those teachers serve the areas of our state with the greatest need."
The legislation comes into effect on July 1 and will raise the percentage of grant money spent on early education to 14% in fiscal year 2015 from its current slot at 11%. The bill also has an escalator clause that will send the percentage to 20% for fiscal year 2016.
The bill was originally a pet project of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wrote an opinion piece run by The Washington Post and several other high-profile media outlets in late March.
Quinn didn't stop there, also signing into law House Bill 5393,which clarifies the requirements for teachers who achieve the Illinois Master Teacher certification to receive an annual bonus of $1,500.
Sponsored by Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), the bill will give priority for said incentives to teachers working in school districts with high poverty rates and low-performing schools, according to a press release from the governor's office.
"Teachers are responsible for educating the leaders of tomorrow, so it is important they have the most effective training available," McAsey said. "This program allows highly qualified educators to continue sharpening their skills and provides for greater student achievement."
Quinn, who is up for re-election this year, has worked up the blueprint for a five-year budget that would include spending $6 billion on education.
The incumbent governor's commitment to education reform is not keeping him from having to battle to regain his office, however. The Illinois gubernatorial election is slated for November 4, and Real Clear Politics' collection of polls has Quinn trailing Republican candidate Bruce Rauner by about 2.7 percentage points.
Quinn rather famously came to office in January of 2009 when he replaced impeached former governor, Rod Blagojevich. Rauner has no previous political experience. He is a native-born resident of Chicago and has run several successful investment firms.