Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced a full day of kindergarten will be guaranteed for all students.
The 5- and 6-year olds at Cuffe Elementary school in Englewood are getting a head start in reading, writing and arithmetic. The kindergartners are in the classroom for a full, 7-hour day. The extra time is making a difference in the learning process for the students, according to their teacher.
"In the half day program, I was rushing and juggling different subjects and they weren't retaining the information well because I was moving too fast," teacher Angela Carter said.
Cuffe Elementary' s principal chose to expand the kindergarten program from the required minimum half-day to a full day last school year, saying the extra class time would benefit students and their parents.
"We had a lot of complaints from our parents, who sometimes wouldn't bring their kid to school if they couldn't find anyone to pick them up," Cuffe Principal Lakita Reed said.
Reed and other principals who opted for the full-day kindergarten program paid for it with each school's discretionary funds. Starting next year, the district will foot the bill for all Chicago public schools to provide full-day kindergarten.
"School starts now for our kids in kindergarten. It doesn't start in first grade," Mayor Emanuel said.
"We know for a fact that children who attend a full day of quality kindergarten program demonstrate strong academic advantages in later grades," Byrd-Bennett said.
Currently, 20,000 kindergarten students are in full-day programs. The change will make it available to 30,000 students at the cost of $15 million. The district will pay for it with cutbacks at district headquarters.
"Our children, Chicago's next generation, can no longer wait and we must make these critical investments," Byrd-Bennett said.
Although research supports the academic benefits of a full school day, Illinois, like most other states, is not required to fund full-day kindergarten. Byrd-Bennett says the district will fund the program by cutting some overtime and negotiating cheaper energy rates.