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Chicago Increases Access to High-Quality Early Learning Opportunities
Family Support, Child Care
Source Of Information:
ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates
A three-year $36 million investment in early childhood education by the city of Chicago will give more than 2,300 additional children aged zero to five access to high-quality early learning programs and associated wrap-around services beginning in fall 2013. In addition to increasing funding, the city also revised how it allocates money to early learning programs, creating a simpler and more coordinated process for all schools and community-based organizations in the city.
Funding requests were jointly reviewed by the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to ensure that all programs funded by the city are high-quality and prepare students for kindergarten and continued learning. For the first time, ensuring resources are strategically allocated across the city in a way that best serves the most children was a priority of the process.
Over the course of their review, CPS and DFSS found there is a lack of high-quality early learning options in the Englewood community. In response, a portion of the city’s funds will be used to establish a new early learning center there, which will provide full-day early learning and care to infants and toddlers, full-day pre-K to children aged three to five, and wrap-around services for children and families. The wrap-around supports will include: parent engagement services, outreach to engage the hardest to reach families to enroll in programs, and assistance in connecting families to health and other social services.
Parents can find information about all of the city-funded early learning programs on Chicago’s new interactive online portal (www.chicagoearlylearning.org). Illinois is currently developing a universal quality rating and improvement system to rate early learning programs’ quality. Once that system is in place, programs’ quality rating will be included in the portal, and parents will have the ability to compare programs.
The early learning reforms are based on recommendations made by the Mayor’s Early Childhood Task Force, which was launched in July 2011. The Task Force included members from city agencies, early learning advocacy groups, and direct service providers. In September 2011, Mayor Emanuel established an Early Learning Executive Council to work on implementing the Task Force’s recommendations and continuing to engage community and education leaders on this important issue.