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Years of Emanuel promises – but chronic failure to deliver on early childhood programs

Number of children able to access pre-school has fallen by 18% since Emanuel took office – more than twice the rate of decline of student enrollment in CPS.

CHICAGO, May 30, 2018— Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised today to guarantee early childhood education for Chicago children – a day after damning news on contract steering at Chicago Public Schools was released by the CPS Inspector General. Emanuel has repeatedly promised to expand early childhood programming since he took office – even though participation has declined by almost 20%.

Emanuel’s campaign promise comes on the heels of a report a week ago that busted CPS for giving families in the city’s richest neighborhood special priority access to free, all-day preschool services, locking out the children of poorer families from the coveted Montessori program.

“For seven years, Emanuel has issued a stream of misleading press releases about early childhood programs,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. ”The real facts are that early childhood education has been in decline since Emanuel took control of CPS – and the remaining programs have been grossly under-resourced.”

In 2014, in the midst of a heated re-election campaign, Emanuel announced a $17 million “social impact” bond program to fund early childhood education, a move that was widely criticized for potentially doubling the return to investors – and the program costs to taxpayers. Loan investors included Goldman Sachs and the Pritzker Family Foundation.

“We need preschool access for ALL of our children – from the earliest ages,” said Sharkey. “But Emanuel has consistently failed to deliver on his endless promises. Instead, under his rule, the number of children receiving pre-school services has nosedived, from almost 24,000 when he took office to fewer than 20,000 today. That drop is more than twice as high as the drop in our overall student body for the same period.”

In 2011, 8,157 three-year-olds and 15,548 four-year-olds were enrolled in pre-k services in CPS. This year, that number fell to 6,670 three-year-olds and 12,771 four-year-olds – with the decline accelerating in the wake of Emanuel’s mass closings of schools in 2013. Many of those closed schools hosted pre-k programs. Overall, the number of children receiving pre-k services has fallen by 18% since Emanuel took office, while the number of students enrolled in CPS schools overall has fallen by 8% during the same time period.

Emanuel has also been criticized by parents and advocates for creating an ‘enrollment’ process that is cumbersome, difficult to navigate and poorly organized, often thwarting parents with older children in a school from registering their little ones in early childhood programs at that same school. Last summer, Emanuel’s CPS administrators moved to lay off almost 40 school workers who helped parents enroll their children in early childhood programs. While over half of those workers have been hired back, many did not return to their responsibilities to facilitate pre-k enrollment.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago’s publicly funded schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and is the third-largest teachers’ local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctunet.com.

Chicago Teachers Union