Business leaders in Illinois are calling for increased funding for early education. State leaders advise that doing so has the potential for significantly increasing job opportunities in the math and science fields if schools can develop the workforce necessary to support these industries.
“Today’s rocket scientists started as yesterday’s inquisitive toddlers, playing with ‘Star Wars’ toys and using their imagination,” explains Rudy Valdez, who is the vice president of Rockford economic development organization South West Ideas for Today and Tomorrow. Also a former executive at UTC Aerospace Systems, Valdez continues, “We need to encourage those young imaginations and stoke their developing creativity further. We need to ensure more kids have access to early science and math programs, even before they hit kindergarten.”
In addition, Tom Fitch—the vice president of a Springfield constructive company—comments that the way to fix this issue is, simply, through improving early education. He says, “To me, that’s cost-effective investment of our tax dollars because it’s something that can be fixed at that point in time.”
Similarly, Renew Moline CEO and president Janet Mathis advises that it is never too early to begin educating children in these highly important subject areas. She warns, in fact, that kids who fall behind may have an extremely difficult time trying to catch up.
“Even in their first years of life, kids can get a very important grounding in such hard skills as math and science, skills they can build on throughout their lives, but they need help and educational stimulation to get there,” Mathis cautions. “That’s where high-quality preschool and similar programs come in.”
Renew Moline is an economic development corporation located in the Quad Cities.
With all this in mind, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s has proposed to spend another $75 million over the next year specifically on early childhood education. This would bring the state’s total early education funding to $394 million. Of course, while Rauner has called for an increase on all levels of education, but Democrats—particularly those in the Senate—continue to be wary of investing more and more money in education under the current formula. They say that the current strategy always fails to distribute enough money directly to those districts who need them.