pacione zayas 040721CHICAGO – State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas called on the General Assembly to act on recommendations in the report released last week by the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding and spoke on her own plan to increase education pathways and economic stability for early childhood educators.

“The Early Childhood Funding Commission has made our duties clear,” Pacione-Zayas said Thursday. “For the first time, this report clarifies the vision and investments we need to break down the barriers young children face in reaching their full potential.”

Pacione-Zayas worked with the commission as a member of the BUILD Initiative’s Illinois State Team, specifically focusing on the importance of building up the early childhood system in addressing systemic racism.


“As we move forward on these recommendations, we cannot lose sight of the ways we need to center an anti-racism framework as it relates to children, families, and providers, as well as how this vision informs building back a better Illinois as we turn the corner on the pandemic,” Pacione-Zayas said.


In the interest of addressing vacancies in early childhood classrooms in Illinois, Pacione-Zayas has introduced Senate Bill 1832, which would give Illinois community colleges the option to apply for accreditation to offer a baccalaureate-level early childhood education program. If approved, the legislation would allow the Higher Learning Commission to grant community colleges the ability to confer a bachelor of applied science degree in early childhood education and a Professional Educator License with endorsements in early childhood education and early childhood special education.

“Early childhood providers have remained open through the pandemic providing emergency child care to frontline workers, supplying critical support to working families, and nurturing the development of young children,” Pacione-Zayas said. “With the aid of federal relief, the time is now to empower our existing workforce to achieve their educational goals and greater economic stability while they help to meet the needs of our current and future birth-to-five system.”

To show support for the legislation and the underlying idea behind it, Pacione-Zayas joined several advocates Wednesday morning at a press conference organized by Illinois Action for Children.

“Child care is the backbone of our economy, because it allows families to not only work and pursue their educational goals, but it is also the workforce that nurtures development of our future generations,” Pacione-Zayas said during the press conference. “This is an issue of gender, racial, and economic equity. The majority of workers in child care are women of color and many are immigrants or refugees. They receive little pay and few benefits. Our legislation will help put these individuals on the pathway toward meeting their educational goals, economic stability, and supporting the development of children.”

Also speaking at the press conference were State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago), State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin), April Janney, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children, Juan Salgado, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, and several other advocates.

Senate Bill 1832 awaits consideration before the Senate Higher Education Committee.