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Illinois early childhood funding fuels rising demand for teachers

June 13, 2018
Valerie Wells
Herald & Review

DECATUR – Chrissi Guarnieri thought she wanted to study interior design, and went to Virginia Polytechnic Institute with that in mind.

“I realized when I had kids that I just loved working with children,” said Guarnieri of Monticello, now a student at Millikin University in the PACE programand mom to three children, ages 10, 9 and almost 8. “They say you never work a day in your life if you’re doing what you love, so when we moved to Illinois, I decided I just had to do it.”

Guarnieri is entering a field that is hungry for new talent. Increased funding for early-childhood education in the new state budget means that school districts have more jobs to fill, but not enough qualified candidates to fill them, said Claudia Quigg, founder of Baby TALK and a member of the early childhood program faculty at Millikin University for 21 years.

“It’s a degree that is in high demand and will only be higher demand,” Quigg said.

Early childhood education is set to receive $50 million in additional funding, with the money up by $200 million since 2015, under the most recent state budget.

“That $200 million overall increase proves that early childhood education is important and valued and recognized,” said Christie Magoulias, director of the School of Education at Millikin. “If we can educate young children appropriately in the way they need to learn at a young age, it sets them up for success. This young age is exactly where we need teachers (and for students) to consider early childhood as a major so we can get really qualified people into these roles.”

Guarnieri chose early childhood because the curriculum is play-based, and preschool, kindergarten and first grade is her favorite age group to teach.