Chicago, Illinois - United Way of Metropolitan Chicago announced today its “Commitments to Action” to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) by investing $3.3 million in early childhood education as part of their Fiscal Year 2016-2017 grant cycle, with 40 percent of those resources going to schools, community centers and neighborhoods serving Hispanic families.
The announcement was made at the Initiative’s 2015 Early Learning Symposium entitled, “Fulfilling America’s Future: Research, Practice, and Policy Advancing Early Childhood Education for Hispanics” in Chicago.
“The benefits of an early childhood education are particularly powerful among children from low-income families” said Alejandra Ceja, the Initiative’s Executive director. “We thank the United Way for its commitment and recognize that it will continue to stimulate and expand quality early learning programing in Chicago.”
United Way identified early learning as a key priority as part of a 2011 organizational shift to more focused funding on key levers of change for individuals, families and neighborhoods. Children who have learning opportunities at an early age are more likely to be successful in school and in life. Early learning resources are part of a portfolio of investments which support work to increase the number of high school graduates, improve financial stability for families, and ensure access to quality healthcare for individuals as part of United Way’s Community-Impact Plan for the greater Chicago region.
“Early childhood education remains among the smartest investments we can make in our young people’s long-term success,” said United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s President and CEO Wendy DuBoe. “United Way is proud to build on its long-time focus on education to ensure children have the resources they need to succeed.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of the approximately 4 million 4-year-olds in the United States, about 60 percent – or nearly 2.5 million - are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool, Head Start and programs serving children with disabilities. Latinos are the United States’ fastest growing and largest minority group, making up a quarter of 3- and 4-year-olds, yet they have the lowest preschool participation rates of any major ethnicity or race.
The Obama Administration has made significant investments in early learning through the Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grants programs. The Administration has asked Congress for an increase of $500 million for Preschool Development Grants as part of the President’s FY16 budget request in order to expand this program to serve more states. Preschool Development Grants support states’ efforts to build or enhance high-quality preschool programs to serve children in high-need communities. The $250 million awarded to 18 states will benefit more than 33,000 additional children in 200 high-need communities, where families have little or no access to affordable, high-quality preschool. Additional funding would enable the Department to provide high-quality opportunities for many more children in the 36 states that applied.
The Initiative was established in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community. In September 2015, the Initiative will celebrate its 25th anniversary, a historic milestone that will be commemorated with the leveraging of public- and private-sector commitments to action that invest in quality education programs and strategies for Hispanics.