Emanuel Announces Expansion to Early Childhood Education

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new online enrollment system Monday that looks to improve access and enrollment to early childhood programming provided by Chicago Public Schools and other city-administered, community-based sites throughout the city.

“The single most important investment we can make in our future is in the children of Chicago and their education,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Every child in every neighborhood deserves a quality education and that must begin in their critical earliest years.”

“The new tool will help our families to more easily enroll their child in a quality program, and most importantly, will ensure that both per-kindergarten programming and kindergarten readiness are truly and option for every child,” the mayor added.

The plan includes an additional 1,000 full day pre-kindergarten opportunities for families of four-year-olds starting this fall. Under Mayor Emanuel, these sorts of full-day opportunities have expanded by 60 percent. The new online enrollment system allows parents to choose from the more than 35,000 opportunities in over 600 schools and community-based program sites throughout the city. The new centralized system launched in May.

First Lady of Illinois Diana Rauner joined Emanuel at a press conference Monday announcing the early childhood expansion. Rauner is the president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, an early childhood education nonprofit.

“Our children’s early years are critical in setting a foundation for a lifetime of success in school and in life,” Rauner said in a statement. “This is why we stand committed with Chicago and our partners statewide in building quality early learning opportunities that will ensure that all children are equipped to learn and thrive early on and when they enter kindergarten.”

Chicago is the first American city to develop an online preschool application system that spans all early learning programs and funding streams for children ages 3-5. The tool was created based on recommendations outlined by Mayor Emanuel’s Second Term Transition Committee.