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Early Childhood Programs

One-third of Latino children are enrolled in preschool, compared to two-thirds of their peers, a disparity that has frustrating implications.

The ability of current Latino students to enter and compete in the future workforce is contingent upon our capacity to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed starting in the early years.

Unfortunately, given preschool enrollment disparities, many Illinois Latino children enter kindergarten six months behind their peers in academic measures, despite bringing strong soft skills and linguistic assets to their classrooms. Cognitive gaps in preschool persist throughout school, culminating in poor high school graduation rates. Only three-fourths of Latinos graduate from high school in four years, an outcome that elicits concern for our future workforce.

Illinois has recently upped the ante in addressing these stubborn achievement gaps, with legislation mandating that our youngest learners have access to preschool programs in their native language. In a state where one-fifth of residents speak a language other than English, it’s vital that Illinois give our youngest English-language learners—many of whom are Latino—the best shot at building a solid academic foundation. This bilingual early education mandate will be fully implemented in Illinois preschool programs by 2014, and will begin to whittle away at the achievement gaps that exist between Spanish-speaking Latinos and their peers.

While lean economic times threaten funding for these vital programs, research from the University of Chicago’s Nobel Laureate Dr. James Heckman shows that early childhood education is a sound investment, with every $1 invested yielding a $7 return in the form of increased school and career achievement as well as reduced costs in remedial education, health and criminal justice system expenditures.

Resources related to our Pre-K work are available below.  For additional information, contact Jose Marco-Paredes.

Photo: Olga Lopez