Emanuel rolls out competitive preschool funding, adds charters to mix

Rebecca Harris | Catalyst Chicago

Under a new system announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Friday, preschool programs will vie against each other in a highly competitive process to win city and CPS contracts and they will face a new contender: charter schools.

Emanuel unveiled the long-awaited process, and announced the city will add at least 2,000 new preschool slots next year and more in future years. Another 4,000 children will receive increased access to wraparound services through existing early childhood programs.

Advocates said that they are hopeful the new system will result in better outcomes.

“If, in fact, this is going to contribute to getting more kids in quality early childhood education. That is what we’re looking for,” said Rosazlia Grillier, a member of the parent organization POWER-PAC. She also said she is happy to see more funding for early childhood programs.

Charter schools will be competing against the host of entities that now provide preschool, including for-profit agencies, community groups, Head Start programs and state pre-kindergarten. Though the money comes from the federal or state government, the city administers and doles out contracts to most Head Start and state pre-kindergarten programs.

“There will be charter schools, the Catholic Church, and neighborhood groups that will be competing,” Emanuel said. “And that is going to be our new way of doing business."

Students who attend preschool at charter schools will be required to apply by lottery for kindergarten charter school seats; spots will not be reserved for them to continue attending the schools.

Programs will be selected based on quality, as well as neighborhood need.

Read more at Catalyst Notebook Blog

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