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Chicago Stakeholders Urge Mayor to Prioritize Early Learning in 2024

In this blog post, Madison Ezell, policy analyst, shares recommendations on the 2024 City of Chicago budget developed by a coalition of local early care and education providers, advocates and families.

Madison Ezell September 13, 2023
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

July marked the beginning of the City of Chicago’s annual budget process, the first for Mayor Brandon Johnson. The City’s new administration has made clear their commitment to K-12 education and they are advocating for increasing quality learning opportunities and supports for all students. It’s our hope that the Mayor and City Council will consider including Chicago’s early childhood care and education system in their education and health priorities. Many early childhood programs in Chicago received a much needed influx of investment from ARPA relief dollars to help stabilize and support their programs. However, many of those funds will come to a cliff in the next few years. Now is the time to increase local investment to support Chicago families and follow in the State’s footsteps of prioritizing early childhood education in the budget.

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Continuing the efforts of last year’s budget advocacy, an ever-growing coalition of service providers, advocates, and families have written a letter detailing our shared budget requests. Our collective recommendations urge the Mayor and City Council to invest additional funds into Chicago’s early childhood care and education system.

At the core of our recommendations is a continued appeal to address the worsening early childhood workforce crisis. The City should increase funding for the Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Scholarship. Since the scholarship’s inception, it has annually received more applicants than there is funding to serve, while staffing shortages throughout the city cause significant service delays for some programs. Further, the City should also support pay parity in wages between early childhood professionals in school-based and community-based settings. Funds from the City Corporate Fund should be used to increase compensation for these essential workers in the short-term while working to structurally address the gap. It is critical that the early childhood workforce be acknowledged for their contributions to the future leaders of Chicago.

Advocates also call upon the Mayor’s Office to strengthen governance and continue infrastructure investments to include additional roles in the Mayor’s Office to focus on key areas of coordination and utilize the collective expertise of the standing public-private table, Every Child Ready Chicago. Infrastructure investments should target the Chicago Early Learning application and referral system to make the user experience more parent and provider friendly, and display the same information about community-based options as school-based enrollment options. To further elevate parent and community voice, the City should invest in Community Collaborations to promote Chicago Early Learning engagement and enrollment at the local level. Each program offering in Chicago’s mixed delivery system is important and parents should have the resources to decide what is the best option for their family.

Many of our budget requests echo last year’s, underscoring the critical investments needed in strategic sectors of Chicago’s early childhood care and education system. Start Early and our partner advocates, providers and families will continue our advocacy until these investments to support Chicago’s early childhood system are seen.

About the Author

Headshot of Madison Ezell

Madison Ezell

Policy Analyst, Illinois Policy

Madison Ezell is a Policy Analyst on the Illinois Policy team at Start Early, where she focuses on systems change work to build an early childhood system that works for children, families and providers in the City of Chicago.

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