ReadyNation Day at the Capitol: Illinois Business Leaders Support Research-Proven Investments in Workforce and Economic Development
Legislative session delivers big wins for early childhood care and education
Illinois lawmakers’ spring session produced impressive FY24 budget results for young children and their families, statewide — but not without equally impressive input from a variety of voices. Among them were the business leaders of ReadyNation, several of whom gathered in Springfield for a March 22 Day at the Capitol event. This exciting day included the opportunity to meet with four legislative leaders – two from each side of the aisle: Senate President Don Harmon, Senate Minority Leader John Curran, House Majority Leader Robyn Gabel, and House Minority Leader Tony McCombie.
This was ReadyNation’s first Day at the Capitol’ since before the COVID pandemic and members enjoyed interaction with legislators, who expressed gratitude for the visits. Participating were four ReadyNation members: Jason Powell, CEO, Bainbridge Enterprises of Marion; Janet Mathis, Principal, The Development Corporation of Geneseo; Rudy Valdez, Engineering Manager, Kaney Aerospace Inc. of Rockford; and Kayla Edwards, Managing Partner, Express Employment Professionals, of Springfield/Bloomington/Jacksonville. In addition to their great conversations with legislative leadership, these executives also caught up with seven additional “rank and file” legislators.
Discussions focused on connecting the dots between investments in early care and education and business needs, covering an array of issues in each meeting. This includes ReadyNation’s updated research on the $4.9 annual economic blow to the state’s economy from the lack of infant and toddler care in Illinois. In the group’s conversation with President Harmon, Jason Powell talked about the significance of kindergarten readiness as a significant piece of workforce development. Rudy Valdez highlighted the ways that high-quality early learning programs begin to develop children’s technical and “soft” skills — the abilities that are vital to success in school, jobs, and careers — in talking with Leader Curran.
In addition to a great impromptu meeting with Deputy Senate Minority Leader Sue Rezin, Janet Mathis helped stress the economic significance of the proposed budget increases for early care and education in ReadyNation’s meeting with Leader Gabel. Kayla Edwards brought home the message about investing in the early childhood workforce as the “workforce behind the workforce” during the group’s meeting with Leader McCombie.
ReadyNation’s “Day at the Capitol” was one highlight of a busy legislative session that included more attention to early childhood needs than ever before with Gov. Pritzker’s Smart Start proposal for birth-to-5 improvements and House and Senate committees conducting a series of ongoing, subject-matter hearings focused on child care and early education. Effective messaging and many voices came together to help secure hundreds of millions of dollars of new investments in the well-being of young children. We’re grateful for the substantial contributions of our ReadyNation members, through our Springfield event and communications with policymakers throughout the winter and spring.