CHICAGO — Chicago International Charter School (CICS), a network of 14 public schools educating 8,000 students in Chicago, was awarded $4 million from the United States Department of Education to add pre-K to its innovative K-12 program. Made possible by USDOE’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), the federally funded pre-K expansion will increase access to high-quality early education in Chicago’s highest-need communities by serving up to 780 new pre-K students over a five-year period. CICS was the only organization in Illinois to receive a federal Charter Schools Program grant this year.
The CICS pre-K expansion will help pave the way for universal pre-K in Chicago by identifying programmatic and funding needs in collaboration with local, city and state entities. In partnership with parents, community members and CICS’ school management organizations, CICS will design and implement a pre-K program in neighborhoods in which they currently serve elementary students. These schools are located in high-need communities across the city, some of which are designated as ‘Opportunity Zones’ by the federal government.
“Access to high-quality pre-K for Chicago’s youngest learners should be a right afforded to every family,” said Christine Leung, CICS’ interim Chief Executive Officer. “CICS is thrilled to become a leader in pre-K programming in Illinois, which will have an immediate impact on families and will shape the future of young people in Chicago for years to come.”
Decades of research demonstrates the positive impact of high-quality early education on a child’s success in school and life, including increasing attendance and graduation rates. Research also shows that investments in early education increase the quality of the workforce and lifetime earnings. Furthermore, Black, Latino and children from low-income households are less likely to access center-based early childhood education than their white and more affluent peers. When compared to their white peers, Black and Latino children are nine to 10 months behind in math and seven to 12 months behind in reading when they enter kindergarten. By providing pre-K to its youngest learners, CICS hopes to close the opportunity gap and ensure that more students enter kindergarten with the academic and social skills necessary for success in elementary school and beyond.
CICS has selected Candace Moore as the Executive Director of Early Childhood. Ms. Moore is responsible for the development and implementation of the pre-K program, including program design, community partnership, and working with school management organizations to recruit students and train staff. Ms. Moore has extensive experience in early childhood programs, including teaching in and directing programs in Chicago’s public housing communities, serving on the Illinois Head Start Association Board, and working with Illinois’ Department of Family and Support Services.
“There is a critical need for access to more high-quality early educational opportunities in Chicago,” said Ms. Moore. “In this new role with CICS, I am committed to furthering CICS’ values of equity, excellence and innovation in our pre-K program so that we can close the opportunity gaps that persist in marginalized communities.”
The $4 million awarded from USDOE will support a planning year and four years of early education programming. The current year will be used to partner with communities, prepare facilities, recruit and train high-quality staff and enroll students. CICS hopes to begin offering pre-K in the fall of 2021.
About Chicago International Charter School
Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, puts them on a path to success in college and life, and empowers entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation.