What Is Funding Equity

Symptoms of a Disjointed System


Our current ECE system is marked by the lack of cohesion between the various funding streams supporting children ages 0-5. The result of these disjointed systems is instability for programs, the workforce, and families.

Disaggregated Accountability and Decision-Making

Split Ownership

Split ownership of the early childhood system does not allow for the ECEC system to be intentionally designed, resulting in inequitable distribution of service availability.

Separate Data Systems

When separate data systems have been built for siloed early childhood programs, they are not integrated to effectively inform equitable decision-making and funding. Ultimately, state policymakers cannot allocate resources in a way that generates greater equity because they cannot see the full picture, and because of this, the early childhood system lacks comprehensive transparency and accountability.

Lack of Community Leadership

At the community level, there is typically no entity that has responsibility for planning comprehensively for ECEC services, causing community disruption when “competing” programs are added or service shortages arise.

Instability for Providers

Unaligned Requirements

Many providers offer services managed by multiple agencies and receive multiple funding streams with incongruous accountability and reporting requirements. Providers are left to meet various standards within their programs based on funding stream requirements, which at best are unaligned but often are incompatible. The result is inequitable services because of the different demands and expectations required by specific grant/funding sources.

Complex & Unreliable Funding

Funding mechanisms are complex, making the system incredibly burdensome and often impossible for providers to navigate. Major state-administered funding streams are provided as reimbursements and/or are subject to long payment delays, leaving providers struggling to make ends meet, as they simply do not receive enough funding in a timely, consistent manner.

A Growing Workforce Crisis

Low Compensation

The low compensation of ECEC professionals has led to a severe and growing shortage of qualified staff for ECEC programs.

Shortage of Qualified Staff

Directors of different ECEC programs all report that filling vacancies has become exceedingly difficult and implementing key equity-focused strategies has been significantly hampered by too-slow growth in the number of teachers with these qualifications.

Declining College Admission

Indeed, the number of students completing degrees in Early Childhood Education and related fields has been decreasing in recent years, a trend that must be reversed if the field is to scale access for all families.

System Navigation Challenges for Families

No Single Source of Information

Families with young children are essentially left to navigate this incoherent system on their own. There is no single source of information about ECEC options, and families must navigate the current disjointed system on their own without full transparency or a cohesive support structure.

Quality Inconsistencies

Lack of unified quality standards or accountability mechanisms limits a family’s ability to know where quality options exist, what options are available to help them afford ECEC, and what level of quality available services provide.

Inequitable Accessibility

Navigating the complex system is even more burdensome for families who do not speak English as a first language, which could be compounded further if there is dependence on literacy and/or technological skills.

Real Stories, Real People

Understanding the Current Early Childhood Education and Care Ecosystem in Illinois

Robin runs the large infant and toddler program in Southern Illinois, offering a range of services that require her to engage with multiple state agencies. These agencies can be slow with reimbursements, frequently causing Robin to experience cash flow problems and financial instability.



Maria is a Spanish-speaking Naperville mom who struggled to find information about preschool programs for her oldest son. A relative finally got her the answers she needed to enroll him in Head Start.



Kristin is a Chicago mother of five — two of her kids are not yet old enough for school and one had developmental delays that required extra services. She makes a little too much money to qualify for some programs but not enough to afford others, which makes it difficult to access the services her family needs.



Patricia runs a child care program in her own home in Southern Illinois. She feels isolated from other providers and worries about the low quality of programs that serve rural children. She's concerned that the problem is just going to get worse as the cycle of poor education continues.



Jaclyn is a Chicago-area family support specialist who works with children and parents in their homes, in part because their communities have no available slots in quality early childhood education programs.



Melissa is a south suburban mail carrier and the single mother of a child with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The only child care provider she could find to watch her son while she works lives in Chicago, requiring a long commute back and forth each day. This makes it nearly impossible for her son to get the therapy he needs.