I have some very difficult news to share. Monday morning I received a phone call from Dr. Barbara Bowman, Chief Early Childhood Officer. She indicated that due to the fiscal crisis in the State of Illinois, all of the Preschool for All (PFA) early chilhood classrooms at the Barbara Vick Center will not be funded next school year. This includes morning, afternoon, and third shift. One hundred and eighty children at the Vick Center will not have access to a preschool education. 10,000 early childhood children will be affected city wide. The Office of Early Childhood is using socioeconomic status (i.e. free and reduced lunch counts) to determine which PFA classrooms will be funded for the 2010-2011 school year. Only PFA classrooms in schools with a poverty rate of 93% or greater be funded next school year.
The Office of Specialized Services has not indicated that there will be any changes/cuts to the special education program next school year. However, the elimination of the PFA classrooms will translate to no blended classrooms next school year. Sixty children with Individual Education Programs will not be educated with their typically developing peers..."
I, along with several other parents at Barbara Vick Early Childhood & Family Center are disheartened. My daughter is in an IEP and I believe the reason for her success is greatly due to the blended classroom environment that Barbara Vick offers.
The removal of PFA in Chicago Public School is an outrage. It forces many things:
1. My special needs child will attend a school not in my neighborhood and potentially a dangerous neighborhood because my neighborhood is not at the 93% poverty rate. This means I have to choice between her and my family's safety and her education, not to mention the extra gas money it will entail driving her to another school.
2. My other child that could attend preschool next year can no longer, as I can not afford to sent him to a private preschool and he has not been identified as needing an IEP. This now threatens his future education as studies have shown the importance of early education being the building foundation.
3. I also had planned on my children attending CPS for Kindergarden/Elementary School. However along with the cutting of PFA, CPS passed a 4 day school week. They is not an answer to budget issues and concerns me what further actions CPS will do. I now have to consider how in this terrible economy I can come up with tution money for private schools. We are among the many "new poor" (middle class families who have used government help for the 1st time) with a the unability to sell our house, and the months we were on unemployement due to layoffs in my husbands work. I do not know how we can come up. We recently moved to Chicago in a better neighborhood from the suburbs and with our higher taxes we are not even given education for our preschoolers and now the education for all is at risk. We have already increased our income we side jobs and decreased our expenses forgoing many "normal" societal standards such as cable tv subscriptions (we have been without that for years actually!)
So I know that Early Childhood was being threatened nationally but now that it is affecting my kids directly because of Illinois's terrible state budget cuts, I am looking to fight more! Off to make some call and write some letters, and then praying!