City launches electronic enrollment for early learners
Chicago recently became the first U.S. city to establish an online preschool application system for children ages 3-5, thanks to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Chicago’s Ounce of Prevention Fund.
The initiative to move the process online coincides with Chicago’s plan to restructure and streamline the hundreds of available programs, both to avoid redundancy and to make the system accessible to families choosing from among many options, increasing efficiency and reducing the need to visit multiple facilities.
The Ounce of Prevention Fund, created in 1982, is supported by Head Start/Early Head Start grants. It provides services through directly operated, partner and delegate programs in Chicago, its south suburbs, and Waukegan, so that high-quality early learning programs can give underserved children the best chances for success.
Since the system began in May, the city has received an increase in applications by 10 percent over last year. Also in 2016, Chicago expanded full-day pre-K opportunities to offer 1,000 additional full-day places, representing a 60 percent increase since 2011.
“Chicago’s programs serve as a model for how large cities nationwide can focus efforts to meet the wide-ranging needs of families and communities, particularly for at-risk children, to access quality early learning,” Linda Smith, HHS deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development, said. “By implementing new tools and programs aligned to Head Start and Early Head Start standards, Chicago will not only provide children new educational opportunities to succeed, but will empower families to make choices for their children that will support important early development.”