October 7, 2014

Mayor Emanuel Closes the Gap on Pre-Kindergarten Education for 4-Year Old Children in Low Income Families

1,500 4-Year Olds Who Qualify for Federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program and are Without Access to Pre-K Will Receive Education Through $9.4 Million Capital Investment

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have closed the gap on pre-kindergarten education for 4-year old children in low income families. Currently there are nearly 1,500 4-year old children in Chicago who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, but do not attend at least a half-day of pre-kindergarten. Beginning in School Year 2015-2016, CPS will provide pre-k education to these students through a $9.4 million capital investment at 10 neighborhood schools, as well as a $4.5 million state capital grant to support new community based programs, and Social Impact Bonds.

Early childhood education remains a top priority for Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago. This investment follows the first year of full-day kindergarten in the 2013-2014 School Year for all CPS students. Since coming into office, Mayor Emanuel has expanded 3- and 4-year-olds pre-k programs as well as programs for infants, toddlers, and their families to serve nearly 5,000 more kids per year.

“A budget is a reflection of our values as a city. Every child in the City of Chicago should have access to pre-k, regardless of neighborhood or family income,” said Mayor Emanuel. “In Chicago, high-quality pre-k and kindergarten is not the exception, it is the expectation. This will provide all of our students with the foundational learning necessary to take them on to college, career, and a successful future.”

The pre-k expansion will be funded through a $9.4 million capital investment through the City of Chicago and CPS as well as Social Impact Bonds. Chicago also received a $4.5 million state capital grant to support new community-based programs once construction is complete. This investment will primarily affect south and west side neighborhoods, where there is the greatest need. Mayor Emanuel will include this investment in his budget address later this month. Since Mayor Emanuel took office in 2011, he has steadily expanded early learning programming through a $36 million investment in the City’s budget.

"Early childhood education helps create a strong foundation that benefits students throughout their entire education,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “By investing in our children’s futures early on, we can eliminate the need and cost for additional educational supports, while ensuring students are ready to learn in kindergarten when they come through our doors.”
While early childhood service provision in Chicago is considered a national model, Mayor Emanuel has made closing the gap of service delivery in all neighborhoods and raising the bar of quality a top priority in his education agenda. To accomplish the goal of having every child in the City of Chicago ready to learn by kindergarten, the City has embarked on an ambitious effort to achieve three distinct goals:

1. Increase access: serve the most at-risk children in high-quality programs.
2. Raise the quality of early childhood programs in Chicago.
3. Bolster transparency and accountability across the educational services spectrum.
This will help ensure that every student graduates with a world-class education, ready to enter college or a career.

The expansion of quality pre-school programs joins the long list of education improvements under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, including universal kindergarten, longer school day and expanded educational programs at the high school level. Collectively, these efforts have resulted in an all-time high graduation rate of 69.4 percent in 2014, up from 58 percent just 3 years ago.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in early learning programs should visit www.chicagoearlylearning.com for more information.