Pacione Zayas BudgetAddressSPRINGFIELD – Following Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget address, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas is excited about the proposed investments in early childhood, housing and violence prevention.

“I am thrilled that the governor and I share the same priority—doubling down on the promise of Illinois as the best state to raise young children,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “The proposed investments in early childhood are the first steps to accomplish this. I look forward to working with colleagues in both chambers to deliver the resources and tools for our young children and families to thrive.”

The governor established early childhood as a priority for the FY 2024 budget, allocating $250 million to the Smart Start Illinois early childhood initiative. The multi-year plan provides a comprehensive approach to investments in preparing children to be lifelong learners, and invests in ISBE Early Childhood Block Grants, Childcare Workforce Compensation Contracts, Early Intervention, DHS Home Visiting Program, Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarships, and more. 

As the chair of the newly formed Early Childhood Committee in the Senate, Pacione-Zayas is delighted that the issue is recognized as a statewide priority.

“When people think of early childhood, of course they consider supports for child care and the school system, but often don’t consider that early childhood development is about early experiences and therefore is affected by the family’s wages, living conditions, and access to high quality health care among many other factors,” Pacione-Zayas said. “The budget proposal is an amazing start to address these issues, and I look forward to collaborating with the governor and my colleagues to invest in our children.”

The budget also allocates $350 million in affordable housing, which supports stabilizing our communities by combating housing insecurity, folks facing difficulties finding work when experiencing homelessness, and battle gentrification in Chicago neighborhoods. It also invests in violence prevention programs, such as $635 million in the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and $138 million in the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“The rising cost of living not only disrupts the lives of folks who are priced out of their homes, it also disrupts and separates communities that have called neighborhoods home for generations,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Investing in affordable housing helps our fight against gentrification, and allow families to stay in the communities they have helped to shape.” 

Senator Pacione-Zayas looks forward to advocating for early childhood, housing, and violence prevention in the upcoming budget negotiations.


Category: Press Releases

cpz chair

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas is thrilled to announce she will serve as chair of the newly formed Senate Early Childhood Committee in the 103rd General Assembly.

“As a lifetime advocate for early childhood education and development, I am excited to lead this new committee and develop policies that support the young children and families of our state,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “I am hopeful that with the creation of this committee, we will dive deeper into issues that impact early experiences and directly address them through policies that ensure young children throughout the state are supported during every stage of their development.”   

Pacione-Zayas has been a leader in early childhood policy during her tenure as State Senator. Her advocacy created the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE), which provides financial and wrap-around support for members of the incumbent early childhood workforce while earning degrees and credentials to improve the quality of early childhood services and programs. She also led the Too Young to Test Act, which dismantles harmful testing procedures for young students in the state. She established the floor for economic eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to ensure that budgets are not balanced on the backs of families with limited economic resources. She championed legislation and secured a budget appropriation to fund $50 seed deposits in Child Savings Accounts for all newborns in Illinois and extended access to Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers who present with developmental delays. Lastly, she launched the first-ever Early Childhood Resource Fair with Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) to help direct members of the community to resources that are available to them – setting their kids up for academic and personal success. She hopes to hold more early childhood resource fairs this spring in tandem with new legislation on these issues. 

The Senator’s strong background in early childhood care and education, predates her tenure in the Senate. Prior to joining in 2020, Pacione-Zayas was the Associate Vice President of Policy for Erikson Institute and established Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy and Community Data Lab—two statewide initiatives designed for Illinois leaders to foster deeper understanding of the importance of a child’s early years and how to apply child development science to policies that yield positive outcomes for children and families. She also served on the Illinois Early Learning Council, the Illinois State Team of the BUILD Initiative and the Title V Needs Assessment Advisory Committee for the state’s maternal and child health services, board of directors for the Illinois Network of Child Care and Resource Referral Agencies, and more. All of these roles addressed essential issues affecting early childhood care and education and combined with her experience in elementary and secondary education, her perspective has positioned her as a leader of early childhood care and education legislation. 

“I am proud that early childhood care and education is not only a priority for myself, but also for my colleagues in the General Assembly and the Governor, who recognized early childhood care and education as a focus for his new administration during his inaugural address,” said Pacione-Zayas. “The creation of this committee establishes early childhood development as a statewide priority, and I am honored to champion our youngest children through my leadership as Chair.” 

Committee schedules and live streamed proceedings are available at


Category: Press Releases

CPZ VirtualTownhalls 2023SPRINGFIELD –To keep constituents informed of what policies are being discussed in Springfield, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas is holding four monthly town halls over the course of the spring legislative session.

“During my tenure as a public servant, I have utilized a shared governance model where I do not just represent my own interests in Springfield, but ideas and issues that are important to my constituents,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “These town halls will cultivate a direct line of communication between myself and folks in my community during times I am working on legislation—making sure their voices are heard before I take legislative action.”  

During each Town Hall meeting, the Senator will give her community a rundown of current and upcoming legislation. This will allow constituents to give feedback on any policy issues they would like to be introduced before the session ends, or voice their concerns or support of issues she is working on as a part of the broader people’s agenda for the 20th District.

The four meetings will be on January 31, March 1, April 11, and May 31st. All town halls will last from 6-7 p.m. Spanish interpretation will be available throughout the event.

To pre-register for the first town hall on Jan. 31st, go to or watch via Facebook Live at

Category: Press Releases

cpz 010523CM0107SPRINGFIELD – To provide more transparency and due process in the current hiring process for principals in the Chicago Public School system, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas, in collaboration with Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, introduced a new initiative to grant Local School Councils (LSC) access to the universe of qualified applicants for these vital positions—ensuring viable candidates are not overlooked, and underqualified applicants are not chosen over their peers.

“Current policies have caused some schools to hire administrators who did not meet the roles and expectations set, and this legislation will help address those issues,” said Senator Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Administrators lead and determine how schools operate, so by ensuring that each school can see the full scope of applicants, we are providing greater access to select those best qualified for the position.”

Currently, aspiring principals face rigorous standards to be licensed by the state and must go through a second eligibility determination process when applying to Chicago Public Schools. After passing this unclear vetting process, candidates interested in a particular school must submit their credentials to the entire CPS system for the first round of vetting, not the school they are interested in.

Additionally, LCSs do not get to look over the entire candidate pool, and only have access to the group CPS advances, even if other candidates were also eligible. This has led to issues in many schools in the CPS system, including a principal being hired who was not fluent in a language of instruction at a two-way bilingual school which compromised the principal’s primary function of evaluating teachers in the language of instruction. The lack of transparency in the current CPS hiring process did not grant the LSC full view of other potential candidates who may have been fluent in the languages of instruction.

To address this and other oversights, this legislation increases transparency for principal eligibility applicants by making public the rubric and scoring threshold for passing each step in the process, allows for due process when candidates do not advance to the next stage of evaluation, and gives Local School Councils access to the entire eligible pool of candidates. These protections give LSCs a more diverse pool of candidates to select from—some of whom may be more qualified to be leaders in schools than the narrower pool that CPS may have advanced. Further, it allows greater opportunity for equity by informing candidates of deficiencies and resources for professional improvement. Senator Pacione-Zayas is confident this change will make the hiring process work better not just for aspiring principals, but also for students, educators, and the wider school community.

“Students and school communities lose out when great leaders are arbitrarily excluded from eligibility,” Troy LaRaviere, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said. “On behalf of the 1100 men and women who lead Chicago’s public schools, I thank all of the General Assembly members for passing HB 5285, which will bring more transparency to the hiring process.”

“Principals and administrators play a meaningful role in the success of our schools and students and are arguably the primary driver of positive school outcomes and success,” Pacione-Zayas said. “Our students and faculty deserve to know the process applicants undergo, and Local School Councils should have access to the full list of eligible candidates to review as they pick who is best fit for the job as principal.”

House Bill 5285 passed both chambers on January 10, 2023.  It now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Category: Press Releases

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