Daily Video

April 6, 2011

Chicago Early Education Program Aims to Close Achievement Gap

Studies have shown that children from low-income families are at risk of beginning school without a strong vocabulary that could lead to a school achievement gap. Educare, an early education program in Chicago aims to give children from high-risk, low-income families the opportunity to succeed. In Illinois it cost about $30,000 a year to keep someone in prison but Diana Rauner from the Ounce of Prevention Fund comments, “We spend about $18,000 to $20,000 per child per year. That seems like a lot of money, but when you do the return on investment, we believe it actually pays off.”

Special education correspondent Jeff Marrow reports, with a per-pupil price tag that is two-thirds of what it costs to house a prisoner, Diana Rauner’s program Educare provides high-quality child care in preschool for at-risk children up to age 5. Infants are accepted as young as six weeks.

Rauner believes the most important time to intervene is really in the first 1,000 days of life, a time when the brain is developing so quickly and when interactions with adults matter so much to children’s developing sense of who they are and their language development. Educare is open 11 hours a day, five days a week, all year round. Children get good food, regular exercise and those with special needs receive additional supports in small groups.

Despite the research and need for programs such as Educare the vast majority of high-risk, low-income children in Chicago do not have access to these types of programs. One program called Preschool for All, reaches only 24,000 kids, and at some schools, there’s a waiting list. Even when you add in the children attending Head Start and other pre-K programs, that’s only 37,000 out of the city’s 90,000 neediest children who benefit. As state budgets are being trimmed, early education programs are at risk of being cut.


“The cost of school failure is enormous. It’s prisons. Its unemployment. It’s dissatisfaction in neighborhoods and communities. All of that is going to cost you and your kids money.” Barbara Bowman, Chicago Public Schools

“Almost two-thirds of the 3- and 4-year-olds in these very, very poor communities have no access to classroom-based preschool Head Start or child-care programs.” Maria Whelan, Illinois Action for Children

“It embarrasses me in the sense that we are unable, not just in Illinois, but throughout the United States, to mobilize sufficient public opinion to support something that everybody, every piece of research shows would help us just immeasurably improve child outcomes in terms of education.” Barbara Bowman

Warm Up Questions

1.How old where you when you started school?

2.Did you attend pre-school or an early education program?

3.What state is Chicago in?

Discussion Questions

1.Do you think early education programs are beneficial for children to succeed? Why or why not?

2.If you were the Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools how would you ensure that all of the children in the city had access to early childhood education?

3.Do early childhood education programs such as Head Smart exist in your community? If so did you or anyone you know attend these types of programs? If not, do you think these types of programs are needed in your community?

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