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The Forum’s Response to Governor Pritzker’s FY21 Budget Proposal

The Latino Policy Forum’s Response to Governor JB Pritzker’s FY21 Budget Proposal

Key takeaways from Gov. Pritzker’s address and how it affects Latinos in Illinois

Last year, in his first budget address as Governor of Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker spoke about a web of recurring challenges that have spanned the state’s 200-year history, including fiscal instability, and a vision of tackling old problems with new ideas. Illinois started 2019 with close to $8 billion in unpaid bills, but one year later that has been cut by nearly $1 billion.

This year, Governor Pritzker still faces budget restraints. With an eye towards restoring economic and budgetary stability, his FY21 proposed budget prioritizes long-term solutions on criminal justice reform and public safety, investments in environmental and cultural resources, and a plan to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise a family—a vision that’s reflected in his proposed budget for early care and education, including a $50 million increase to Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, which provide aid to eligible, financially disadvantaged students.

Many of these spending priorities rely on the development of new funding streams, the most noteworthy of which are sports betting and recreational cannabis. In just one month of legalized cannabis, Illinois has generated nearly $40 million in revenue. Gov. Pritzker conservatively projects $46 million in revenue from adult-use cannabis sales this year, which will largely go towards stabilizing state finances and important social-service investments, including mental-health services.

Moving forward, the Forum will closely monitor the following focus areas: 

FY21 Illinois State Board of Education budget proposal:

The state has an obligation to fairly fund public schools and ensure equitable access to quality educational programming. Education makes up 25 percent of the governor’s FY21 proposed budget, providing funding for cradle-to-career programming. However, the investments proposed for education and social service programs is contingent on the progressive income tax. This contingency may have great implications for how the state provides funding for schools.

In 2017, Illinois passed the Evidence-Based Formula (EBF), a funding mechanism that changes the way Illinois distributes resources and prioritizes funding for the least resourced students to ensure equity. However, funding this system comes with a hefty price tag, one that is expected to be fully funded by 2027. The FY21 budget proposes to invest $350 million for EBF and to set aside $50 million for property tax relief. The contingency set forth in the governor’s budget could result in a $200 million investment in EBF, compared to the $350 million proposed. This could put Illinois behind on fully funding the formula by 2027. 

The Forum will engage in advocacy efforts to ensure that funding in EBF reaches under-resourced districts and students. The Forum pays special consideration to how Latinos and English Learners fare under EBF. Forum analysis finds that 82 percent of Latinos reside in low-resource communities in Illinois. Similarly, 86 percent of English Learners reside in low-resource communities. Under EBF, districts receive additional resources to support the academic achievement for these students’ subgroups.

Gov. Pritzker’s proposal also includes a $50 million increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG). Twenty-five percent of this funding is set aside for the state’s Prevention Initiative (PI) program.

Despite this increase in the proposed budget, the early education community requested $150 million to the ECBG for FY21. As the state moves towards developing a high-quality early childhood system, efforts to expand services for working families in Illinois must be met with significant investment. For Latino working families, these investments are critical. Latino children are, on average, 11.5 months behind their white peers in reading skills at kindergarten entry. In Illinois, Latinos make up 27 percent of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Illinois (90,957 out of 329,227).

The Latino Policy Forum conducted an analysis and found that although there is more money in the early childhood system, the percentage of 3- and 4-year-old slots funded is lower for districts with the highest concentration of Latinos. This means that there has not been an increase in Latinos served in the areas where they are most concentrated. Increased investments are imperative to ensure children have a strong foundation for learning; however, this effort must be met by an equitable allotment process that prioritizes high-need areas of the state.

In addition, Gov. Pritzker proposes $2.5 million for home-visiting services out of the ECBG. Total investment in state home-visiting is $4.5 million, including investments made to the Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon programs. 

Higher education and teacher workforce development

State investments in our pre-K–12th grade system are critical to ensure students in Illinois receive high-quality education opportunities. The state, however, has an insufficient pool of professionals who can provide these opportunities. This shortage is pronounced for candidates who share the same ethnic, racial, and linguistic background of our student population. Latinos have the lowest college completion rates in the state, at 14 percent. The Forum is committed to working with stakeholders to ensure Illinois builds a workforce that reflects the diversity of our student population.

To that end, we applaud the following investments proposed by Gov. Pritzker.

  • $16.5 million in the ISBE budget for teacher recruitment, retention, and diversity efforts, including funding for Diverse Educator Recruitment. The Forum supports using this additional investment for the Supporting Future Teachers Program (SB2844).
  • Level funding for the Minority Teachers of Illinois Program (MTI) administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). Given the need to diversify the teacher workforce, additional investments are necessary for MTI to ensure minority candidates have access to financial aid opportunities.
  • $50 million increase in MAP grants, which will allow for MAP-eligible students from families making under $45,000 to attend community college free of cost.
  • $14.9 million investment in state community colleges. Students of color are more likely to attend community colleges than their white counterparts. This additional funding will ensure that there are resources to serve these students.

FY21 Illinois Department of Human Services budget proposal:

Children and families

A commitment to programs that improve the healthy development of children and the earning potential of their caregivers is crucial for a thriving Illinois. Gov. Pritzker’s budget recommendations put children and families first. By supporting Illinois’ working families, especially Latinos, these programs will create a stronger, more resilient economy.

The following areas in the governor’s FY21 proposed budget for IDHS are critical to highlight.

  • $100 million increase to the Child Care Assistance Program (an 18.6 percent increase over FY20), which would help the families who lost access to the program return, reduce family co-payments to no more than 7 percent of their income, and raise provider reimbursement rates. 
  • $7.2 million increase to Early Intervention program services for children with developmental delays. This 6.6 percent increase will help raise provider rates and alleviate caseloads.
  • $2 million increase for voluntary home visiting services (Healthy Families and Parents Too Soon programs). This investment will build on the governor’s vision for universal home visiting, an effort that will expand these vital services to families in need and raise wages for the staff providing them.


We are supportive of our allies in programs that provide critical immigration services. The governor reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring Illinois is a welcoming state for immigrants by recommending maintaining level funding for these important programs.

  • After reinstating the Welcoming Centers program through executive order in early 2019, Governor Pritzker has proposed to continue the appropriated allocation of $1.6 million.
    • Welcoming Centers provide linguistic and culturally sensitive assistance to ensure immigrants access state programs, healthcare, childcare, education, and employment.

The governor’s budget also includes recommendations to maintain funding for Immigrant Integration Services at $6.5 million. 

  • This program includes services such as the Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP), which helps immigrant families access eligible public benefits, and the New Americans Initiative (NAI), which helps legal permanent residents apply for naturalization and assists with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals. 
  • A list of organizations that provide Immigrant Integration Services and that serve as Welcoming Centers can be found here.

The Forum would also like to highlight the continued funding for the Access to Justice Program, which provides legal services and representation for immigrants facing deportation, at $10 million.


Last year, Gov. Pritzker reinvested in Illinois housing access, putting $250,000 towards homelessness programs. His FY21 proposal generally builds on this, with new investments in programs and services addressing affordable housing and homelessness prevention. Given our commitment to ensure all members of the Latino community, regardless of income, have access to safe, quality, affordable housing options, the Forum supports the important funding increases that Gov. Pritzker proposes for the following housing areas.

  • IDHS receives an additional $1,769,500 for their housing programs and services. Between the IDHS and Veterans Affairs, an additional $1,182,900 is being proposed to specifically address homelessness prevention.
  • The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) receives an additional $2 million for their Norman Services (cash-assistance and housing-locator services to families in class defined in Norman consent decree), some of which help low-income families find affordable housing, as part of an overall 7.9 percent increase for DCFS.

Illinois has few multi-lingual organizations that can provide housing assistance to Spanish speakers, despite the fact that approximately 17 percent of the state’s population is Latino and that Spanish is spoken in about 14 percent of all homes.

The proposed FY21 budget eliminates $150,000 in funding for “Prevention and Assistance for Families at Risk of Homelessness.” Without this funding, individuals with little to no English proficiency are at a disproportionate disadvantage for securing housing. Organizations like the Center for Changing Lives (CCL) won’t be able to provide the multi-lingual housing assistance upon which many of them depend. At a time when gentrification displaces thousands every year, state funding is essential to helping these individuals and families surmount language barriers and secure affordable housing. The Forum will continue to monitor and support organizations that provide housing-related assistance for Latino families who are most in need.


Gov. Pritzker is also setting aside $1.4 billion in the budget contingent on the passage of a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax, which will be decided by the people of Illinois in November. If the progressive income tax does not pass, the FY21 budget proposal holds certain appropriations in reserve which will not be used until revenue forecasts are more certain by November of this year. The Latino Policy Forum, along with the Illinois Latino Agenda (ILA), has actively advocated in support of a fair, progressive tax for the state of Illinois, which will not only help balance the budget but makes our tax system fairer.

Through our ILA partners, the Forum will also continue to advocate for Latino representation in key government positions and in state Boards and Commissions. This ensures that the Latino voice is present at every level of decision-making.

The Forum supports our allies’ efforts in areas outside of our organizational focus as well, and we support all efforts to invest in Illinois’ most vulnerable communities.

The coming months will be a true test in how Illinois can build a bridge to the future through the strategic investments laid out in the governor’s proposed FY21 budget. The Forum will monitor the proposed investments outlined in this response and will work with general assembly members on several matters highlighted in our legislative portfolio. View the Forum’s 2020 legislative portfolio HERE.