City pledges to provide more — and better — toddler education programs
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com August 3, 2012 2:04AM
Start early: Several educators promote the idea of starting children in preschool at a young age because an individual's most important brain development occurs between birth and the age of 5. | File photo
Updated: September 4, 2012 6:23AM
Five thousand more Chicago toddlers will have access to early childhood education programs by the 2015-16 school year — and the quality of existing programs will be upgraded — thanks to a mayoral plan to be unveiled Friday tailor-made to someday reduce the high school drop-out rate.
At a time when early childhood programs in other cities are on the chopping block, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is making a three-year investment in Chicago’s version, beginning with a $10 million down payment in the fall of 2013.
Roughly 37,000 three- and four-year olds are currently enrolled in city-funded early childhood programs bankrolled by state and federal funding.
The overhaul — based on recommendations from 60 early childhood experts — will give 5,000 more kids access to those programs while requiring existing programs to re-apply and measure up to strict new standards.
Instead of doling out funding to the same old organizations every year and automatically renewing that funding, the city intends to start from scratch with a whole new set of “internal and external reviewers” with expertise in what it takes to prepare kids to succeed as students.
New standards will be posted online at www.cityofchicago.org/bids/chicagoreadytolearn. Schools and community organizations will be invited to apply for funding for the 2013-14 school year. The open invitation is designed to “encourage innovation” and broaden the pool of quality applicants.
The Chicago Public Schools will work closely with the city’s Department of Family and Support Services to ensure that funding is “strategically allocated” across the city.
In a press release announcing the expansion, Emanuel claimed that Chicago students who attend “high-quality” early childhood programs are 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school.
Last year, CPS reported that 5.5 percent of its high school students dropped out before graduation.
“Chicago’s children deserve a full education that gives them the time, skills and information they need to compete on a national level and early childhood education programs are a critical piece,” said the mayor, who has made the longer school day his signature education initiative and agreed last week to hire 477 more teachers at a cost of $50 million to make it happen.
“From the cradle to college, we are investing in high-quality options for our children.”