City expands preschool program

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • October 30, 2008 @ 12:10 PM

An $11 million expansion will create 1,500 additional spots for preschool children at city schools, Mayor Richard M. Daley said yesterday.

The expansion involves 50 schools and will increase the total of preschool children in Chicago Public Schools to 33,000.

“We owe our children the best possible start in life, and we can help assure that by giving every child access to education from a very young age,“ Daley said in a statement.

The additional openings are for half-day slots, and are open to children of Chicago residents. On Sept. 1, they must have been at least 3 years old, but younger than 5. Children must be transported or walked to school by parents, since no bus transportation is provided.

To enroll, parents should visit the program website, call the Office of Early Childhood Eduation at (773) 553-2010, or visit their neighborhood elementary school.

The website includes a list of participating schools. City officials say priority will be given to children residing in households with annual incomes of less than $80,000, homeless families, children with diagnosed disabilities or children speaking a language other than English.

CPS chief Arne Duncan believes attendance in preschool programs ultimately leads to better test scores and higher graduation rates.

“This expansion is a serious investment that will have a big impact on our students in the future,” Duncan says. “We know that students who attend early childhood programs are more likely to have higher attendance rates, better test scores and eventually higher graduation rates.”

Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.