As the new school year begins at Chicago Public Schools, the organization is expanding its preschool for all program, but the rollout of the program means big cuts in funding for community-based organizations that have provided preseason to 4-year-olds for years.
The funding cuts, set to take effect Dec. 1, have sparked fears among dozens of community-based groups that they will have to shut the doors on their preschool programs, as well as programs designed to provide childcare both before and after school.
“We are working parents,” Mary Ottinot said. “We have needs and it’s not just the rubber stamp that you’ve done with the rollout of universal preschool.”
The city announced that under its new plan, preschools must have plans to pay teachers $47,000 a year, and those that can’t comply with the requirement have lost the federal and state funding that they need to operate.
One such program was the Little Angels Learning Center in the Englewood neighborhood, which was promised $1.4 million last year by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to build a new facility.
Under the new preschool grants, the organization saw its funding slashed.
“I can’t see the city just tearing us apart and totally just defending us on our budget,” Nashone Greer-Adams said.
Parents are worried about losing the other services the groups offer, including child care, counselling for parents, and other social services.
“We do have family specialists on site, to handle any kind of crisis and to help families in need,” parent Jessica Ocegueda said.
The groups potentially impacted by the funding cuts have asked for a meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office to address the concerns, but it’s unclear when, or if, it will happen.