Today, CPS and Mayor Emanuel launched Chicago: Ready To Learn! – an investment meant to increase high-quality early childhood education programs for the city’s youngest learners.
A combined effort from the Office of Early Childhood Education and the Department of Family and Support Services, this expansion of early learning programs is part of the city’s three-year, $36 million investment in early childhood education.
“Every child in every neighborhood across this city deserves a quality education that helps them succeed in life. We have made the commitment to ensure every child has access to a full day of kindergarten in our schools, and by partnering closely with DFSS we are ensuring that Chicago’s children have a quality start to their learning, even before they walk through our doors,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
The increased investment in early childhood education was coupled with an overhaul of the process for reviewing and allocating funds to early learning programs. By creating a coordinated application and review process, CPS and DFSS were able to more equitably distribute funds in a way that serves the most children, while also ensuring that all programs receiving city funding have the quality staff and resources to prepare students for kindergarten and beyond.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that every child has a quality education that allows them to succeed, regardless of where they live, and that begins at the very start with early learning programs,” said Mayor Emanuel. “From early learning through college, we are working to make the smart, critical investments that support our students’ futures.”
Studies show that a high-quality early learning experience can be the precursor to later success in school. In Chicago, for example, students who attend high-quality early childhood education programs are 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not. Yet nearly half of all three year olds and 25 percent of four year olds now residing in the city are not currently enrolled in early childhood programs.
“Early childhood programs provide a nurturing, highly-individualized environment with passionate teachers, a balanced curriculum, and ample opportunity for parent involvement,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mascitti-Miller, Chief Officer for the Office of Early Childhood Education. “These experiences also help children develop social and emotional skills while fostering intellectual curiosity and independence.
In addition to the academic benefits, early childhood programs connect children with wrap-around services like parent engagement and empowerment opportunities, access to social services, and medical and dental providers. The latter is particularly important, as research has shown that children who have regular medical care during their pre-school years begin kindergarten healthy and have better attendance and academic performance throughout the year.
More than 700 community and school-based programs will be funded by the city beginning this fall, providing high-quality early childhood opportunities for 44,600 children ages birth to five. This is an increase of 2,300 early childhood slots, and includes the establishment of an Early Learning Center in the Englewood community, which had been lacking in quality early childhood options for its families.
Applications for CPS school-based early childhood programs can be accessed by clicking here, or can be picked up at a local elementary school or at one of 13 application sites throughout the city. Children who are residing in Chicago and will turn three by September 1, 2013 are eligible to apply. All applications must be submitted in person at one of the 13 centralized application sites, or at local elementary schools on designated days. Proof of residency, income and the child’s age will be required with all applications. The deadline for submitting an early childhood application is May 3, 2013, and notification letters will be sent to parents in early June.
Parents interested in enrolling their children in a community-based early childhood program should contact the agency directly. Information on early learning options in all neighborhoods can be found at www.chicagoearlylearning.com.
For all students with disabilities, as well as those students in the most financial need, school-based early childhood programs will remain free of charge. Those families who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch will be asked to contribute a tuition copayment based on a sliding income scale.
For more information on CPS early childhood programs, visit www.cps.edu/readytolearn.