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Chicago Stakeholders Urge the City to Invest More in Early Learning in 2023

In this blog post, Kyrsten Emanuel, senior policy manager, shares recommendations on the 2023 City of Chicago budget developed by a coalition of local early care and education providers, advocates and families.

Kyrsten Emanuel September 14, 2022
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

The City of Chicago began its annual budget engagement in July, and the preliminary budget priorities presented to the public the last few weeks lacked any mention of investments in early care and education. After the elimination of investments in early learning from the federal reconciliation package, Chicago is left with no choice but to increase local investment to live up to its promise of being a world-class, culturally vibrant city that celebrates its diverse communities and values its families and children, Chicago’s future leaders. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economic well-being, health, and development of children and now is the time to double down on our efforts to support Chicago’s children and families as we continue to navigate through a time of recovery and rebuilding. That’s why a growing coalition of providers, advocates, and families are calling on the city to invest more in these critical programs and services.

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Building on last year’s advocacy, a group of 23 organizations who advocate for and serve thousands of families across Chicago sent representatives to the Mayor’s three budget engagement forums this summer and penned a letter to the Mayor and City Council outlining a set of shared budget recommendations for 2023. Comprehensively, our collective recommendations urge investment of additional funds in the early care and education system that supports families with young children in Chicago. These organizations contend that families with young children and the programs that provide them with essential services are still struggling and/or recovering from the pandemic, so now more than ever, adequate support and investments are needed.

Also central to these recommendations is the continued plea to address the early childhood workforce crisis. The city should increase funding for the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, which receives far more applicants each year than there is funding to serve at a time when early learning programs all across the city are experiencing staffing shortages. The City should also consider innovative ways to invest in increased compensation for early learning and care workers – including center-based and family child care homes, Early Intervention professionals, home visitors and doulas. Washington, D.C. offers a solid example of investing in such professionals, where the city council recently approved a plan to send one-time payments between $10,000 and $14,000 to thousands of child care workers as part of an effort to raise wages.

While advocates have asked that the city continue its investment in infrastructure supports, such as the Chicago Early Learning hotline, community outreach efforts and the Chicago Early Childhood Integrated Data System, they want to see an increased commitment to providing resources necessary for managing the city’s complex system. This includes resources for leading and convening public-private partners to engage in the collaborative work of reaching every family with young children, and those who support them, in Chicago. This would require renewed commitment to the Every Child Ready Chicago initiative and reinvestment of funding for appropriate staffing levels in the Mayor’s Office, Department of Family and Support Services and Chicago Public Schools.

Investment in a strong system of early care and education supports for families is key to ensuring that children are ready to succeed in school and in life. Start Early, as well as our partner early care and education providers, advocates and families will continue to work tirelessly until these investments are realized in Chicago.

About the Author

Kyrsten Emanuel

Kyrsten Emanuel

Senior Policy Manager, Illinois Policy

Kyrsten leads Illinois’ advocacy strategies related to health and the City of Chicago.

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