LA SHAWN K. FORD

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

kids reading books in natural environment together

In collaboration with early childhood experts, educators, child care providers, and parents around Chicago, I have developed a comprehensive birth to five systems to ensure that all of our children have the best start at life, regardless of family income. My comprehensive early childhood education plan is comprised of five key areas:

Affordable childcare for Chicago families

As mayor I want to continue to work with our State Legislature to increase eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program to 300%, expanding access to more families, and decreasing co-payments to families to less than 5% of a family’s income. This is critically important as our city moves to being one that has a citywide workforce with a livable wage.

Universal preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds

Every child in the City of Chicago deserves access to high-quality preschool education as a foundation for long term academic success. Unfortunately for many, good high quality preschool is unaffordable. My administration will expand on the existing Universal Preschool Program by growing the initiative to include all families in Chicago. Building on existing public/private partnerships that the City already has, my administration will create an additional 25,000 preschool slots for existing and new community based organizations in our neighborhoods. Parents will be able to decide if they would rather enroll their children in a preschool of their choice in their neighborhood or one that is in closer proximity to their place of employment. Investment in universal preschool will increase kindergarten readiness for our children, the gateway to academic success; assist our corporations in attracting and retaining talent in the city’s workforce; and improve the productivity of Chicago’s workforce, strengthening the backbone of our business industry.

Expanding support for pregnant and new moms

According to a study conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health, “Each year an average of 73 women in Illinois die within one year of pregnancy.” The study also found that Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions than White women. These deaths are preventable. We have to work to change this heartbreaking statistic. I am proud to share a new initiative to called Chicago Doula Services. This program will establish access to culturally relevant doula services for families in Chicago most at risk maternal mortality and premature birth. In my administration, we will establish a 2-year pilot program with the support of public and private universities to create a community based doula network that works with the Department of Family Support Services to train, support, and sustain doulas from marginalized communities. Our goal will be to significantly reduce the mortality rates of both mother and their babies. Doulas provide non-medical assistance and support to women before, during and after childbirth. Among other recommendations are creating home-visiting programs to help high-risk mothers, implementing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ suggested “fourth trimester” of care and expanding Medicaid eligibility from 60 days postpartum to one year.

Home visiting programs are critical to increasing school readiness, curtailing child maltreatment, and reducing lifetime arrests and convictions. Equally as important, home visiting programs that are evidence based also positively impact familial structure and relationships: increasing parental income and increasing the likelihood of parents continuing to live together. As a state legislator, I have been involved with in either sponsoring or voting in favor of all legislation that expands the outreach of the birth-to-three home visiting programs available in the State. As mayor, it will be my goal to ensure that residents of the city of Chicago are informed and empowered to engage in those resources to the level they think is best for their family.

Investment in Chicago Educators

The Illinois State Board of Education estimates more than 2,000 positions remained vacant during the 2016-17 school year, including teaching, administrative and support staff. In order to ensure that all students in the city of Chicago have access to a high-quality education, the city must employ strategies to attract and retain highly qualified, culturally competent educators. In order to achieve this goal, my administration will develop a Chicago Teacher Fund to cover the cost of two years of college tuition for high-performing City of Chicago residents (students who maintain a 3.0 GPA) who pursue degrees in education at state schools. These students must be accepted into a college of education, at a state school, and must maintain a 3.0 GPA. In return for free tuition, students must commit to teaching in Chicago Public Schools for a minimum of five years.

Additionally, I plan to expand the CPS Teacher Homebuyer Assistance Program for highly qualified school teachers who are first-time homebuyers in Chicago from the stagnant $3,000 per teacher in closing cost and down-payment assistance to $7,000 per teacher or $15,000 to teachers who are returning to the neighborhoods they grew up in. The expansion of this program more truly reflects the average cost of becoming a homeowner in Chicago and increases the likelihood of attracting high quality individuals who understand the culture of the communities they serve.

Investment in high quality community based centers:

Parents need to be able to choose what setting is the best for both their children and family needs. In order to fully implement Universal Preschool, my administration will make sure that the existing available resources fairly distribute funding to ensure high quality programs exist in every community. Child care is the hidden support system that most working families rely on to help maintain their household. This public private partnership is essential to provide the bedrock that the “City that Moves” thrives on. In my administration we will not only a invest in large corporation, but also invest in small businesses like early childhood education centers. They are invested in our community, committed to our children, employ our residents, and serve as the support system for our workforce.