Chicago’s bumpy path to universal pre-K

Chicago is not the only city to experience growing pains during a rollout of universal pre-K. But new data obtained by Chalkbeat show enthusiasm hasn’t been even across the city and that extra classrooms in schools have hit community providers particularly hard.   

This week we took a look at the first year of Chicago’s speedy pre-kindergarten rollout and found it has fallen short in coordination, consultation, and communication. Some educators worry it could end up diminishing high-quality options for Chicago’s infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who need it the most.

Click here to read more about the city’s bumpy road to universal pre-K and what the mayor’s office said it plans to do next.

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.

One more reminder: Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @yanazure.

The week in review

Chicago’s second charter strike: With pay still a sticking point, the strike entered a fourth day. The union, meanwhile, stepped up its political theatre, staging a picket line in front of a statewide charter lobbying group and inviting a parade of aldermanic candidates to join in the rally. Chalkbeat reported from the picket lines. 

Speaking of political theatre: Education is becoming a popular theme in the mayoral hopefuls TV ads. Chalkbeat watched them so you can stick to Netflix. 

Who’s a reformer? In an essay for the Atlantic, Mayor Emanuel said he wants to leave “the old gospel” of education reform behind. Chalkbeat assessed that claim. 

Education whisperers: Who’s giving advice to the mayoral candidates when it comes to schools? Chalkbeat asked the candidates and got some surprising answers. 

Summer book giveaway: To help boost low reading scores, Mayor Emanuel is expanding his popular summer library program into schools. Chalkbeat looked at the plan.

Court fight over school documents: A Cook county judge has barred the Better Government Association from publishing documents it obtained about the drowning death of a teen with autism at a Chicago school. The BGA explained. 

LGBTQ bill advances: A state representative has re-introduced a bill that would require American history courses in Illinois schools to teach students about the positive contributions of LGBT people, but it does not specify how. NPR Illinois talked to the sponsor.

Looking ahead

The municipal election is coming: In addition to our Chalkbeat Chicago voter guide, we’re proud to be part of the Chi.Vote collective, joining the Better Government Association, Block Club Chicago, The Tribe, Chicago Reporter, the Daily Line, and others in creating a one-stop voter education site for Chicagoans. The site has candidate bios, links to all those forums, a quiz to test your political know-how, and articles, including ours, to help you make your decisions. Good luck.


Golden Apple, the Illinois nonprofit that gives out a prestigious teaching award, announced on Thursday the list of finalists for its coveted leadership award. Of the 8 principals on the finalist list, 3 work in Chicago schools: Lillian Lazu, principal of Little Village Academy, Joshua Long, Principal of Southside Occupational Academy, and Anna Pavichevich, principal of Amundsen High School.

Seven Chicago teachers are on the finalist list for the teaching award: Nicole Cordero of Amundsen, Robert Edwards and Leticia Raygoza of Phoenix Military Academy, Greta Kringle from Eric Solorio Academy High School, Athenia Travis and Angela Young of Southside Occupational Academy and Erin Unander of Lake View High School.

Finalists will be recognized at a ceremony on Feb. 23 and winners are surprised in the spring with a visit to their school.