The Channahon School District 17 unanimously voted to fund an a program for at-risk preschoolers Monday even if they do not receive a renewed state grant.
The funding comes despite a Republican-sponsored effort to cut $17 million from early childhood programs. These cuts, if passed, are likely to affect a grant the district has typically received. Supt. Karine Evans read a quote she said was from Rep. Tom Cross wherein he expressed regret about the cuts.
"Most of our discussion [about this] is based on the fiscal disorder in Springfield," said Mike Schroeder, director of finance and transportation.
The district's program that is affected is Little Learners. Already 40 children, ages 3 to 4 are enrolled. The district had earmarked $100,000 in the budget for the anticipated program costs. Half has already been paid and the board approved paying the remaining $50,000. This would include a full-time teacher and a full-time teacher's aide.
"I think that this is definitely, definitely a worth while program," Evans said. "I believe in the program, it is the way to go."
Early childhood programs are targeted to preschoolers who meet the criteria for being at risk. Criteria is a weighted scale, including developmental delays, social issues and economic variables, according to Kim Wilson, an early childhood teacher who addressed the board.
Studies, including one done by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, show that preschool programs are an ounce of prevention. In addition to helping the individual students, they save the state billions of dollars, according to the report.
Without these programs, Illinois can expect to pay more in juvenile corrections, welfare, unrealized income tax, losses accrued by crime victims, alcohol and drug abuse programs and decreased productivity of employed parents, the report showed.
"The ongoing cost burden of not investing in school readiness for all disadvantaged children is an estimated $155 million a year," according to the Wilder Foundation report's summary.
The district turned in a application for the grant about eight weeks ago. The last they heard, there has been no movement by the state in awarding the grants, Evans said.
This year is the first time in her experience that all the program's slots have been filled in both the morning and the afternoon classes this early in the summer, Evans said. In the event that other students may qualify for the program, the district would start a waiting list.