FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker made a stop at Freeport’s Blackhawk Elementary School on Tuesday to promote a $250 million education program.

The Smart Start Illinois program is meant to provide every child in the state with access to preschool and increase funding for childcare providers.

The governor said the new state budget provides $700 million in Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.

Pritzker said funding for higher education programs won’t mean much if the state doesn’t also invest in a child’s earliest years.

“Brain development mostly occurs in those first five years and if we help parents do their job, assisting them with nutrition and healthcare and with support for educating kids at home in those early years, nd provide quality childcare, and provide Pre-K for every child in Illinois, then we have really high-quality K-12 education and higher education to offer for these kids, who are prepared to be the best in the nation,” he said.

Pritzker also said the new state budget increases funding to address a shortage of teachers in the state.