Mayor Richard M. Daley emphasized the responsibility of parents in their children's education. "We owe all of our children the best possible start in life," Daley said. "I tell every parent, 'There's a helping hand, please grab it.'"
When Maria Saucedo’s son was old enough, she tried to enroll him in preschool at Finkl Elementary, the same school her nephews attend. She was turned away. Finkl did not have a preschool program.
“It wasn’t here a year ago,” she said. “They sent me to another school. They said they didn’t have anything here.”
This year, Finkl, in Little Village, opened two new preschool classes as part of a Chicago Public Schools preschool expansion that added 1,500 seats citywide this year.
Saucedo’s 4-year-old son, Joshua, now attends Finkl.
“I’ve seen my son blossom in just this one month,” Saucedo said, adding how important preschool is for children.
Preschool provides children with the building blocks needed to succeed in later grades and prevents problems during teen years, Mayor Richard M. Daley said.
He urged parents to enroll their children in preschool and said they owe it to them.
“It isn’t the school educating your child,” Daley said. “It is you, with the help of the teachers and everyone educating your child.”
The school system was able to create 1,500 half-day preschool slots, many of them already filled, because it received an $11 million state grant. The remaining seats are expected to be filled by January.
Rufus Williams, Chicago Board of Education president, said the grant will be spent to support the seats that are already open and that additional money would be needed to open more spots for students.
“There’s a tremendous unmet demand right now,” Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan said.
According to Duncan, about 33,000 students are enrolled in preschool programs across the city but the city needs about 60,000 seats total. The school system has been adding at least a thousand new preschool seats a year, Duncan said, but has a long way to go.
“[CPS] will continue to create access in communities that haven’t had any,” Duncan said.