About Us

Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to introduce to you our new Center for Early Learning Funding Equity at Northern Illinois University. CELFE is bringing to life a long-held dream of a center focused specifically on how financing structures for early childhood education and care systems support or—too often—impede equitable access for families and children.

Early learning experiences are critical, and every child deserves to have access to high quality early education. Every young family also deserves to have access to safe and nurturing care for their children while they work or attend school. But too often, families can’t access these services because they are unaffordable or simply not available in their communities. While the most overwhelming challenge for the early childhood education and care field in our country is too little public investment, we know that the way current public funds are being spent is often not equitable. We are eager to shine a light on the complex ways in which early childhood resources are now distributed and work alongside states and communities to design more equitable, efficient, and effective funding systems.

We started this journey with the State of Illinois as the Early Childhood Transformation Team in 2021. We made great progress supporting more equitable funding strategies to improve the lives of families and children across the state. We’re excited for this opportunity to expand our work to a national scale. Illinois’s transformation work remains one of our most important projects.
I am immensely proud of our new team, who bring diverse backgrounds and deep passion to this critical work. I hope you will take a few minutes to learn more about them and about the work we are starting together to redesign early learning funding with children and families at the center.

We look forward to continuing this work with your partnership,

Dr. Theresa Hawley, Executive Director, Center for Early Learning Funding Equity