Policy Resource

Chicago Increases Access to High-Quality Early Learning Opportunities

Jan 9, 2016

Learn how Illinois has developed a universal quality rating and improvement system to rate early learning programs quality so parents can compare programs.

In Fall 2013, the city of Chicago announced a three-year $36 million investment in early childhood education to give more than 2,300 additional children aged zero to five access to high-quality early learning programs and associated wrap-around services. 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 are 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. Additional partners include Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization, and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.

The citys funds were used to establish a new early learning center which provides 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 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 Chicagos interactive online portal (www.chicagoearlylearning.org). Illinois has developed a universal quality rating and improvement system to rate early learning programs quality so parents can compare programs. Parents can search the website or receive text messages about early learning programs near their home address and receive timely updates about application processes.

The early learning reforms are based on recommendations made by the Mayors 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 Forces recommendations and to maintain the engagement of community and education leaders on this important issue.

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