Preschool enrollment lagging in minority neighborhoods

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Surveys in several low-income Chicago neighborhoods have shown that some of the children who need preschool education the most aren’t getting it. Now a new report shows that the problem is widespread. 

The report, “Why Isn’t Johnny In Preschool?” is based on over 5,000 interviews in 19 low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods across the city. The research was conducted by  POWER-PAC, a parent offshoot of the group Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), and other nonprofit partners. Their surveys found that 40 percent to 64 percent of preschool-aged children were not in any early education program.

Surveys in several low-income Chicago neighborhoods have shown that some of the children who need preschool education the most aren’t getting it. Now a new report shows that the problem is widespread. 

The report, “Why Isn’t Johnny In Preschool?” is based on over 5,000 interviews in 19 low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods across the city. The research was conducted by  POWER-PAC, a parent offshoot of the group Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), and other nonprofit partners.

Their surveys found that 40 percent to 64 percent of preschool-aged children were not in any early education program. Factors that kept children out of preschool included lack of transportation, scheduling conflicts, immigrant families’ fear of deportation and a shortage of slots.

In a press conference held Thursday, COFI officials argued that many of these problems stem from a lack of information available to low-income families about their preschool options. They presented recommendations to address these issues, including:

  • Providing transportation, including vans, buses and “walking school buses”—adult escorts—to get children to and from preschool
  • Adjusting preschool schedules to be more compatible with the often-hectic work schedules of parents
  • Boosting public awareness through media campaigns, door-to-door home visits and grassroots outreach programs
  • Reducing co-payments for working-poor families who are not eligible for free preschool
  • Simplifying the registration process

 POWER-PAC supports related legislative proposals, outlined on their website. You can also find a copy of the full report there.

Catalyst first reported on the challenges of enrolling poor children in preschool in 2007. Following a community forum that identified solutions, Englewood preschools reduced their vacancy rates.  Catalyst reported further on the issues in its most recent issue of Catalyst In Depth.