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Karen Lewis at preschool for all rally

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) calls on the City of Chicago to level the playing field for the thousands of preschool aged children by adopting a universal system that provides a full-day of early care and education for children under the age of 5.  

Under the current system, hundreds of youngsters are at risk of losing access to educational programs that would foster cognitive learning, academic achievement, social skills and emotional development.

Since 2009 State-level funding  for early childhood education has decreased by more than 25 percent leaving hundreds of children without access to half-day, or full-day programs.  State-level funding disparities are just the tip of the iceberg as the enrollment rates among minorities continues to slide. 

According to a report from Voices for Illinois Children, about 58 percent of white children and 55 percent of black children attend some sort of preschool, yet only 40 percent of Hispanic children are enrolled.  Also children in poverty are underrepresented in preschool enrollment, while 24 percent of children under 5 are in poverty, only 19% enrolled in preschool are in poverty.

Just as Chicago Public Schools has responded to Chicago’s high poverty rate by offering all students free breakfast and lunch, a similar community response is needed to support the thousands of working and nonworking families in need of full-day preschool.

 “The current preschool system of half-day slots doesn’t work for parents who need reliable, full-day programs to allow them to work to support their families,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “The families left out are precisely those who need this programming the most–low-income parents with few resources who are trying to lift up their families and get ahead through steady full-time employment.”

In order for the current system to work the CTU recommends the following:  

  • Expand existing half-day early learning programs (like Preschool for All and Head Start) to a full-day for 3 and 4-year-olds.

  • Expand early learning programs for infants and toddlers from birth to 3 –years-old who receive child care through the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program.

  • Ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the mayor’s Children’s Fund. Millions of dollars have been set aside from speed camera revenues, but community members are left guessing when it comes to how funds are used within Chicago.

  • Explore both immediate and long-term progressive revenue options to support expanded early care and education—such as reclaiming money lost to banks by renegotiating toxic swaps, millionaires’ tax, financial transactions tax, etc.

  • Require teachers in community-based early childhood programs to hold the same credentials and earn the same wage as preschool teachers in Chicago Public Schools.  This move will create good jobs in Chicago’s communities and will reduce teacher and caregiver turnover, which means more stability for young children and families.

The CTU’s effort to secure full-day preschool is in conjunction with the Bright Future Chicago: Where Kids and Parents Come First campaign.  Bright Future Chicago is on a fast track to make universal coverage a reality by expanding the already broad support for universal coverage through education and outreach, partnering with elected officials and community leaders for concrete reform of the city’s broken system, and promoting a comprehensive and accessible universal plan covering all of the city’s working families.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.