pacione zayasSPRINGFIELD – Responding to a crucial need for hundreds more early childhood educators in the coming years, State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) passed a plan out of the Senate Higher Education Committee Tuesday to provide new college degrees and an easier path to training for those already working in the field.

“This is not just about providing a brighter future for our kids, but also the people who are already working so hard to help them learn and grow,” Pacione-Zayas said. “We know that high quality early care and education is key to helping our children realize their full potential. We need to remove barriers by expanding access and affordability in this field to show support for the workforce that cares and educates our youngest while families work and pursue educational goals.”

Senate Bill 1832 will allow Illinois community colleges the option of applying to the Higher Learning Commission for the ability to confer a Bachelor's of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Colleges could also offer Professional Educator Licenses with early childhood and early childhood special education endorsements. Colleges would also be required to maintain associate-level early childhood education programs.

The legislation sets forth standards that would ensure such programs align with the requirements for four-year institutions. The goal, Pacione-Zayas said, is to expand enrollment statewide, diversify all levels of the early childhood education workforce, and respond to local workforce demands.

Speaking before the Senate Higher Education Committee Tuesday evening, April Janney, CEO of Illinois Action for Children, said early childhood education providers are experiencing recruitment challenges despite competitive salaries and benefits.

“Early childhood teachers are on the front lines of this pandemic,” Janney said. “This bill will make it easier for them to advance their careers, while it also elevates the quality of learning for children.”

Juan Salgado, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago system, said the legislation responds to urgent, immediate workforce needs in a field where most employees are women of color.

“This is, at the end of the day, about getting the children in this state the qualified educator they need today, not tomorrow,” Salgado said. “This is what we were designed to do as community colleges. This is the value we bring to, in this case, overwhelmingly … women of color.”

After robust discussion, Senate Bill 1832 passed out of the Senate Higher Education Committee and Senator Pacione-Zayas said she will continue negotiations with stakeholders to ensure a systemic solution.

 

Category: Press Releases

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