cpz 020123SPRINGFIELD – 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 www.ilga.gov