If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, what is the conversion rate for $5 million? That's how much the Robert R. McCormick Foundation (See McCormick Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education) will provide over the next two years for "early care and education initiatives" in the state of Illinois. How much more valuable does that $5 million become when nearly 5,000 kids got cut from the Preschool For All Service as a result of budget cuts? How about when you find out that they plan to prune it again this year by another $25 million?
The press release says McCormick's $5 million will serve four basic purposes:
- Training School Principals: In 2014, new legislation will come into effect in the state of Illinois that requires school principles to have some introduction to education issues starting at the pre-school level. The legislation will also require a higher level of understanding on behalf of school principals in special ed and ESOL. $1.2 million of McCormick's money will subsidize the costs of keeping new and existing school principals sharp on these issues.
- Training Teachers: Whether you're talking about graduate students or preschoolers, nothing is more direct and more vital to students than professional training for teachers. For this reason, $500,000 of the McCormick money will help to develop the existing professional development systems in place for Illinois teachers. Another $345,000 will bolster the Executive Function Program at the Big Shoulders Fund.
- Supporting At-Risk and Minority Students and Families: Mirroring the situation of many of the nation's urban centers, the numbers show that African-American and Latino kids begin to fall behind in terms of test scores as early as elementary school. Another million from McCormick will pay for research on how the achievement gaps start and what the public education system can do in order to minimize them. Money in this category will also provide general support for early childhood education programs and training for "providers who work with veterans as well as National Guard and Reserve families in Illinois."
- Maintaining Existing Funding and Supporting Policy Efforts: Finally, McCormick plans to give over $2 million to education policy advocates such as Advance Illinois.
While funding for public schools in Illinois continues to sputter, McCormick will most likely strengthen its efforts to give support where and when they can. It's an instance of "Wish you didn't have to, but glad that you do."