Galesburg-area appeal helps to save Pre-K programs statewide

KNOXVILLE, Illinois - A regional appeal is prompting the state of Illinois to restore partial funding for many early childhood education programs statewide.

"These families need us," said Parent Educator Stephanie Johnson on Thursday, August 2.

That plea is getting results.

It's saving Johnson's job, along with nearly three dozen colleagues, in the four-county region. That's as Illinois restores funding for Pre-K classes just days from the start of the school year.

"It feels awesome that the funding has come through," Johnson continued. "We'll be able to continue our programs with our moms and children."

Funding for most Pre-K programs in Rock Island County will remain steady or increase.

Other districts, however, remain left out. Funding for the program in Cambridge, Illinois, continues to be cut.

For the most part, it's a welcome about-face from the Illinois State Board of Education.  After abruptly cutting off cash in June, it's now pumping money into regional programs.

"Those skills are important for the kids to come in and learn, so they can transition into kindergarten," said Woolsey Principal Tara Bahnks.

This region encompassing Knox, Warren, Henderson and Mercer Counties is getting results after launching a successful appeal.  State leaders got the message and will save programs for five years.

Regional Superintendent Jodi Scott was instrumental in reaching out to lawmakers and decision-makers to reverse course.

"Thanks for telling your story," she recalled.  "Thanks for helping us understand how this funding impacted your local people. It definitely made a difference."

This region will be able to save full-day programs, receiving up to 85% of its funding.

Educators consider it a victory before school starts.

"I feel certain about the future," Johnson concluded.  "I know that the programs will continue. Families will get their help."