Governor Pat Quinn today continued his commitment to improving education in Illinois by joining students, parents, advocates and community leaders to break ground on an addition to Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS). The state is providing $12 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funds to build the addition, which will help the school expand its innovative curriculum and its use of technology to improve learning.
"We must invest in 21st century facilities that will help provide our children with a 21st century education," Governor Quinn said. "Supporting early education and elementary schools will increase students' success in the future and help them realize their full potential, which paves the way for economic growth."
Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS) opened in 2005 with 80 students in kindergarten through 1st grade. Its programs were based on the strong foundation of the nationally-accredited preschool program at the Erie Neighborhood House, which has been serving and educating Chicago's low-income immigrant population since 1870. It has since expanded to serve students in grades K-5, and today's announcement will increase its capacity to serve more than 400 low-income or disadvantaged students in grades K-8.
"Erie Elementary Charter School hopes to close the achievement gap by providing high quality, bilingual education that puts students on the path to success in secondary and higher education," said EECS Principal Velia Soto. "We are grateful for the state's support of these critical efforts to offer a quality education for our students."
The new 16,000 square-foot addition will mean more classroom space for art, music and parent education, as well as extracurricular activities. The building will also host a new gymnasium, a computer lab and expanded staff office and administration space. The facility will also be compliant with the American's with Disabilities Act and include environmentally safe and efficient processes necessary to quality for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification.
"Education plays a key role in our ability to develop and maintain a workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy," said DCEO Director David Vaught. "This funding will help ensure more Illinois children have access to a quality educational environment and facilities that will give them a leg up and prepare them for the future."
In his proposed budget, Governor Quinn reiterated his commitment to education, jobs and economic growth by maintaining funding for K-12 and higher education, increasing early childhood funding by $20 million, and calling for a $50 million increase for the state Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides college scholarships for needy students. Governor Quinn also recently announced $623 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding to help dozens of school districts statewide make critical repairs, additions and technology updates to classrooms. Combined with local dollars, the funding will allow school districts to complete projects totaling more than $1.2 billion.
To ensure the continuation of the state's capital plan and projects like these, which are putting hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents back to work, Governor Quinn has proposed necessary changes to stabilize and restructure the state's pension and Medicaid programs after decades of fiscal mismanagement. The proposals outline up to $85 billion in savings from changes to the pension system (based on current actuarial assumptions), and $2.7 billion in savings from restructuring Medicaid. These changes will lead to greater certainty in Illinois' business climate and help respond to serious concerns from the ratings' agencies. The billions of dollars saved through these reforms are key to the state's ability to ensure that critical capital improvement and road safety projects in Illinois are able to move forward.