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Gov. Pritzker Announces Illinois' Early Childhood Education and Care Transition Advisory Committee Members

ILLINOIS, December 5 - The committee will advise the State on the creation of a unified early childhood education and care agency


CHICAGO - Today, Governor JB Pritzker announced eighteen members of the Early Childhood Education and Care Transition Advisory Committee, chaired by Bela Moté. As part of the Pritzker administration's plan to create a new, unified state agency to administer early childhood education and care programs, the strategic-planning group will consist of educators, childcare providers, and policy experts.


"I want to thank this incredible group of parents, educators, leaders and advocates on for their dedication to creating a more cohesive, equitable, and family-centered early childhood education and care system in Illinois," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Their perspectives and feedback are vital as Illinois transitions to a single agency for early childhood education and care, bolstering our support for our youngest residents and their families."


The unified agency will address the obstacles that providers and families experience when navigating various agencies. Currently, services are housed in three separate agencies—the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The Transition Advisory Committee will help inform and provide feedback to the State as it prepares for the transition to a new single agency. This work builds on Governor Pritzker's commitment to make Illinois the best state in the nation for families raising young children, with the nation's best early childhood education and care system.


Education expert Ann Whalen serves as Early Childhood Transition Director, working out of ISBE, and in close collaboration with state agencies and the Governor's office. Prior to taking on this role, Ann served as the Director of Policy for Advance Illinois, where she worked on education advocacy issues including addressing Illinois' teacher shortage, the improved use of data to drive decision-making, social-and-emotional learning, education funding, and more. She has an extensive background in education policy and implementation at the local, state, and federal levels. Previously, Ann was Deputy Chief Education Officer at Chicago Public Schools. She holds a BA in Political Science from Stanford University.


The committee will be chaired by Bela Moté, who will work closely with Director Whalen to lead the transition. Bela is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, one of the largest early childhood and youth development organizations in Chicago, serving close to 2,500 children through their childcare centers and affiliate programs. She previously participated on the Governor's Early Childhood Funding Commission.


The Early Childhood Education and Care Transition Advisory Committee will be composed of the following members:

  • Makisha Binns, owner of Kiddos Care
  • Katie Cobb, Principal/Director of Early Childhood Programs at Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center in Peoria Public School District 150
  • Johnna Darragh-Ernst, Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education at Heartland Community College
  • Shontae Fennoy, early childhood teacher in East St. Louis school District 189
  • Tonya Frehner, Regional Council Manager (Region21) at Birth to Five Illinois
  • Rochelle Golliday, Executive Director and Owner of Cuddle Care, Inc
  • Kesha Harris, parent
  • LaKeesha James-Smith, parent
  • Marcy Mendenhall, President and Chief Executive Officer of SAL Community Services
  • Janice Moenster, Director of Early Childhood Services at Brightpoint
  • Dara Munson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Family Focus
  • Mariana Osoria, First Deputy of Human Services, City of Chicago
  • Angel Powell-Muldrow, Principal in District 148
  • Edgar Ramirez, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Commons
  • Robin Steans, President of Advance Illinois
  • Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, Vice President of Education Policy & Research at the Latino Policy Forum
  • Sarah Ziemba, Chief Executive Officer of Shine Therapy Services

 Governor Pritzker initiated this multi-year process by signing Executive Order 23-09 and will work with the General Assembly on legislation in the spring session, starting in 2024. The change will further advance the Pritzker administration's historic and transformative investments in comprehensive early childhood education and care, including Smart Start Illinois.


The Transition Advisory Committee will work with the State's Early Childhood Transition Director, Ann Whalen, to release a report by December 31, 2025.