Pritzker touts 'Smart Start Illinois' education program during State of the State address

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing that Illinois provide pre-kindergarten for all 3 and 4-year-olds whose parents want it, but may not be able to pay for it.

"It's called Smart Start Illinois. And it will make our state the best place in the nation to raise young children," Pritzker said.

The program is part of the annual state budget he presented Tuesday in Springfield.

The governor argued that, for poor children in particular, pre-K for 3 and 4-year-olds and early intervention for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or diagnoses such as autism, pays huge dividends in the long run.


"The research is clear. Smart Start Illinois will save taxpayers $7 for every $1 invested and will vault Illinois to national leadership in early childhood development," Pritzker said.

Pritzker also touted the large increases in enrollment at Illinois public universities, now far outpacing the national average.

He said the General Assembly could achieve a milestone by approving a $100 million increase in tuition grants.

"Together with Pell Grants, virtually everyone at or below median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition-free," Pritzker said. "That means higher wages and better jobs in health care and I.T., construction management, manufacturing, accounting and much, much more."

Some lawmakers urged caution on committing to new spending on a permanent basis with fears of an economic recession looming, bringing a potential decline in tax revenues.