As Illinois navigated the economic downturn, lawmakers made lots of cuts -- including to early childhood education. Advocates say over the years, that cut off 25,000 kids from access to preschool.
Business leaders say it's time to restore the funding, in the name of economic efficacy later on.
Brad Billings, CEO of Quincy-based Blessing Health System, says the workforce of the future will need more technical skills, and says that begins before kindergarten.
"If we don't grasp that at the political level, the legislative level, citizens in this state are going to have a hard time being part of a competitive workforce in the future," Billings said.
Billings cites a new report by Cornell University that spells out the benefits of early childhood education. The study says local economies, especially small businesses, stand to benefit most from that investment.
Billings wants lawmakers to put another $25 million into Illinois' early childhood learning programs.
Governor Pat Quinn is pushing his own 'birth-to-five' initiative in this election year, but lawmakers are juggling an already-thin budget in the face of a scheduled income tax decrease next year.