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First Lady Tells Governor: Early Childhood Education Is a "Hot Mess" (But Not Just In Illinois)

Judge Sharon Johnson, Diana Rauner and Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The cause near and dear to the First Lady of Illinois' heart has taken a hit. She said so herself Thursday with her husband, Gov. Bruce Rauner, looking on.

As CEO of Ounce of Prevention, Diana Rauner gave a slideshow presentation at a meeting of the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Youth. She began saying that Illinois has long been a leader in early childhood education.

Diana and Bruce weren't sitting near each other, and when her microphone dropped out, she decided against moving next to him. It could have been for any number of reasons (including the television cameras looking on), but it may be because what she had to say next wasn't good.

"Okay so I just wanted to let all of you know a little bit about where we are as a state. The bad news ... we are going backwards here," she said. "The percentage of children, low-income children -- infants and toddlers - in our state has gone up 4 percent in our state since 2008."

She went on to say Illinois' early childhood education is a "hot mess" as it is, she says, in "any other state."

The Ounce of Prevention is one of dozens of social service groups that's filed a lawsuit against the Rauner administration, seeking money it's owed that's been caught in partisan gridlock since last summer.

The First Lady also spoke about the importance of assistance for child care; a program the governor sought to scale back.

Gov. Rauner called the Cabinet's discussions about improving youth education and health "awesome," and said "this particular process is so essential to the long run .. quality of service improvement for young people."

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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