Little Girl Playing with Learning Toys

Introducing: Start Early’s Chicago Policy Agenda

Start Early’s new, four-year policy agenda represents our policy priorities in Chicago through fiscal year 2027.

Kyrsten Emanuel April 30, 2024
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog
  • Resource

Start Early is pleased to introduce our Chicago Policy Agenda for 2024-2027. Chicago is positioned to make great strides toward a higher-quality, more equitable early care and learning system over the next three years and this policy agenda outlines key levers for achieving that kind of systems change.

Awareness of Chicago’s early learning issues among City leadership will be one of those key levers. After advocates in Chicago successfully garnered attention for early learning issues during the 2023 elections, Mayor Johnson outlined goals for early learning in his administration’s transition plan and has since embraced and revived the Every Child Ready Chicago initiative, which was launched under the Lightfoot administration just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recently elected City Council has also seemingly made a renewed commitment to issues impacting Chicago’s young children with the revival of the Education and Child Development Committee, which now holds regular meetings under the leadership of Alderwoman Jeannette Taylor.  

Leadership changes within Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have also resulted in continued commitments to early learning, including furthering the expansion of universal full-day pre-k for every four-year-old in Chicago. In addition to hiring a new CEO in 2021, CPS is facing an unprecedented expansion of their Board of Education over the next four years that will open opportunities to expand the Board’s expertise and further democratize the range of issues it considers.   

As CPS receives increased funds from the state’s Early Childhood Block Grant under Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start plan, their leadership will need to contend with how to build on the progress that has been made to expand access to pre-k and do so in such a way that preserves and promotes equity within the mixed delivery system of school- and community-based early childhood education that gives families in Chicago the ability to choose the program that works best for their child. Doing so will require partnership with Chicago’s six federal Head Start grant recipients and the broader early childhood provider community in Chicago. Our hope is that this Chicago Policy Agenda will provide guidance on where to focus efforts and resources as the city embarks on this collaborative work.

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.

More About Kyrsten