Originally published in WAND on Feb. 16, 2024.


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Illinois nonprofit organizations could soon be eligible for state grant funding to build or renovate early childhood properties. A proposal in Springfield could expand the child care construction grants for non-public schools.

The Early Childhood Construction Grant Program was created in 2009 to provide state funding to help public schools and nonprofits give better learning environments for young kids.

Illinois awarded $45 million to community programs and public schools in 2011. Then, lawmakers earmarked $100 million for the program through the historic 2019 Rebuild Illinois capital spending plan.

"The Illinois Administrative Code prioritizes areas with highest demonstrated need and allows the funds to be used for building acquisition or renovations, equipment purchases, and very important for early childhood centers that care for our youngest children, safety improvements and classroom conversions," said Ilana Friedman, senior policy analyst for early childhood at the Jewish United Fund.

Yet, lawmakers unfortunately blocked nonprofits from receiving funding through an error in the budget implementation plan passed last spring. That bill language stated grant funding was only available for public school districts. Now, lawmakers are trying to fix that mistake.

"There are community-based early childhood not-for-profits that don't own their facility and they rent from another nonprofit or lease from another nonprofit," said Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). "We want them to be able to access these dollars to create a better, safer learning environment."

The Illinois Capital Development Board plans to provide $50 million in grants to public schools. However, sponsors and advocates said there is roughly $40 million left over.

"Our hope is that a significant amount of those rollover funds will be available to not-for-profits, regardless of whether they lease or own the property," said Amy Zimmerman, Jewish United Fund assistant vice president for state government affairs. 

Senate Bill 2675 passed unanimously out of the Senate Education Committee last week. Senators could vote on the plan when they return to Springfield for session next week. 

"Expanding our resources to nonprofits that specialize in early childhood education gives residents more opportunities to access the care they need," Villivalam said. "I will continue to support our child care organizations and advocate for them to get the resources they need to continue serving Illinois families."