Chicago’s mayoral and aldermanic election is just around the corner and recently candidates had the opportunity to weigh in on how they would tackle Chicago’s complex issues related to early childhood education. During a candidate forum hosted last Wednesday evening by over 20 organizations that serve families with young children across the city, seven of Chicago’s nine mayoral hopefuls spoke to an audience of hundreds of early childhood educators, parents, advocates, researchers, and other stakeholders.
The Early Childhood Education Forum, led by Child Care Advocates United, put early childhood education issues front and center and enforced the notion that any successful mayoral candidate has a mandate to take action once in office to support the early care and education workforce and the families they serve. Participating candidates all gave recognition to the important role that early childhood education plays in addressing the needs of the whole child and their family and community. They uplifted the prenatal to five period as critical for intervention and spoke of the value of high-quality early childhood experiences in preventing later challenges in life.
While all candidates participating in the forum demonstrated an understanding of the challenges faced by the early care and education system in Chicago, they offered few details on just how they would address the ongoing early childhood workforce crisis, better support community-based organizations, reconcile the competing priorities of Chicago’s mixed delivery system for pre-k, address issues arising as a result of fractured funding sources, and further support families to access the program that best meets their needs.
Fortunately for the next mayoral administration and city council, early childhood advocates have provided a clear roadmap for addressing these challenges through their release of a Mayoral and Aldermanic Candidate Brief, which was distributed to every candidate running for one of these offices. Advocates have outlined steps for the city’s elected officials to work in partnership with stakeholders to invest in more capacity to lead the planning and administration of Chicago’s system of early childhood services and supports, address gaps in access to high-quality early care and education for all of Chicago’s children, and acknowledge the critical work of early childhood professionals by increasing support and compensation for the workforce.