Four of Chicago's 14 mayoral candidates at an early childhood education forum on Monday shared how they will fix the city's education system if they are elected.
John Kozlar, Lori Lightfoot, Paul Vallas and La Shawn Ford participated in the forum, which was moderated by Art Norman, a special contributor for NBC Chicago.
Kozlar said he is young and not a politician, so he could "get rid of the stench" of corruption in the city.
"In Chicago, we have a tendency of electing the same people over and over and nothing changes," Kozlar said. "With all this political experience, why are we still talking about the same problems? The next generation is ready to take over and start over in Chicago."
Lightfoot said early childhood development is the most important mission to take up.
"My parents always made sure we had books in the home, even though we were low income," Lightfoot said. "We need to expand opportunities for early childhood development."
Vallas wants to implement a citywide universal prenatal-to-classroom program to help children from the get-go. "This would be a game changer," Vallas said.
Ford, a former teacher, said early childhood education is paramount. "It's where the divide starts in life," Ford said.
When asked how they would address the low pay of teachers, Lightfoot said she believed early childhood education teachers should be paid more. "Teachers teaching the earliest ages should be paid the most," Lightfoot said.
Kozlar said he wants children to start early in the arts. He said the pay disparity between early childhood educators and teachers is wrong.
"This is common sense," Kozlar said. "We should be paying early education teachers if not more than just as much as high school teachers."
None of the candidates wants to continue current Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for universal preschool for all.
"Emanuel's plan neglects the prenatal to age 3 group," Vallas said. "It needs to be changed."
Ford called Emanuel's actions a "money grab." "He'd rather take money than educate children," Ford said.
Kozlar said the testing part of the program demoralized children. "We can't demoralize students at an early age," Kozlar said. "Testing shouldn't take place until high school. I would revamp that mindset."
Lightfoot called the program ill-conceived. "It was not well thought out," Lightfoot said.
Several candidates suggested implementing affordable childcare and prenatal care.