Latino children have inadequate access to preschool in Chicago, despite increased slot capacity Citywide. The City’s centralized enrollment system for school-based preschool has made it more difficult for low-income Latinos to enroll their children. How will your administration ensure that high-need Latino children have adequate access to preschool?

Education

One of the reasons the centralized enrollment system has impacted Latino children is because the enrollment process has been removed from their local school system. Instead, now parents must bring the application to one of 24 designated sites. The process also requires proof of income and government assistance. Removing the community/local aspect of the application process has created barriers. I would work to improve the enrollment system and make it more user friendly; if this means removing the designated application sites and allowing the parents to apply for preschool at their local schools, I would make the required changes to the system.

As Mayor, I will ensure that an adequate number of pre-school slots are maintained for Latino children. We will decentralize the enrollment process and assign authority to the regional and local CPS offices.

I support quality universal pre-school, a long overdue policy to prepare our children for the future. Universal pre-school will require more funding and changes at the state and federal levels and I will use my Mayoral office to fight for these changes. In the meantime the City must reform its enrollment system for school-based preschool so that it reflects the needs of all Chicago’s communities, including Latino families. Specifically, I would de-centralize the enrollment system and put teachers, parents, and local schools at the center of education. Parents should be able to visit their neighborhood schools and enroll in the program. The teachers who best know our communities should be at the front lines as ambassadors for early education. In addition, I would implement intentional, linguistically, and culturally appropriate outreach that informs families about their eligibility, the enrollment process, and opportunities for parent’s involvement in their children’s education. This outreach would take place in partnership community institutions, such as advocacy organizations, churches, and community centers that already have roots in the neighborhoods. Lastly, I would make hiring multi-lingual staff a priority, including Spanish-speaking staff, and implement professional training for staff development.

All centralized city systems should be inclusive of all Chicagoans. As Mayor, I would ensure that all children of Latino communities have access to adequate preschool by exploring merging of sections of Chicago’s Department of Children and Family Services under the CPS umbrella. This transition will also help expand the community schools model and make our neighborhood anchors a viable hub of youth education, family development, adult education, and essential health services. All of Chicago’s children must have access to high quality education and it starts with preschool.

I have made it a priority to ensure every Chicago child has access to high-quality pre school – no matter who they are or where they live. Early childhood education is key for the future success of our children, and it is why I have made the investments needed to provide free pre-K for all 25,000 four-year-olds from low-income families. Over the next four years, I will double down on this commitment to early education by tripling the number of full-day CPS pre-k programs, providing opportunities to an additional 4,000 children. Evelyn Diaz, my commissioner overseeing this effort, has been working actively with community groups to ensure every child has access to these programs. Ensuring a child’s success will also require keeping parents engaged in their child’s work, which is why I will double CPS’s Parent Engagement Centers. These Centers have been a critical tool to improving student learning by helping parents become computer-savvy and offering GED, ESL, and other courses. In addition, the City is also investing $125,000 by the end of the year to identify a partner to implement a program that will include parent engagement efforts and support for immigrant families in navigating early education opportunities.