Early Childhood Programs
Chicago Public Schools funds early childhood education programs through both schools and community-based organizations. The key to choosing the right program is determining what works for your family.
Things to consider when choosing a program:
- Your Child's Age
- Location (Age eligible residence of Chicago may apply to any program)
- Program Hours
- Services for Diverse Learners
- Language Preference
School Based Programs
Chicago: Ready to Learn! Programs…
- Have half day (2.5 to 3 hours long) and full day options.
- Are school based.
- Have a standardized curriculum: Creative Curriculum Literacy Approach is used in all classrooms, providing a research-based structure to support student growth and learning.
- Are offered free of charge for children with special needs, children in temporary living situations, and income-eligible families.
- May have a required fee based on the income of the parents or legal guardians. Use the calculator to determine your fee.
Tuition-Based Preschool Programs
- Are offered to children ages 3 and 4 years old.
- Are full day models that provide childcare in addition to preschool.
- Are offered in a limited number of elementary schools. Registration for these programs occurs at the school building.
View the Tuition-based Programs.
Child Parent Centers
- Focus on the needs of the entire family and emphasize the importance of continuity from preschool through 3rd Grade.
View the Child Parent Center Programs.
Selective Enrollment & Montessori
Please note: Transportation will be provided for children whose Individualized Education Plan (IEP) states the provision of transportation.
Community Based Partnership Programs
Community Based Partnership Programs
Provide preschool services and developmentally appropriate experiences to children enrolled in childcare facilities. Community-based early childhood programs are open to children birth to 5 years old.
- Hours vary by program
- Non- school-based, community-based programs
- Standardized Curriculum: Creative Curriculum Literacy Approach to promote school readiness
- Eligible children enrolled in participating childcare centers receive an enhanced educational program
- Program is targeted to working parents in need of childcare
For a Complete List of Programs in Your Area
Please visit chicagoearlylearning.org. You can also text your zip code to 773-886-1819, or call the Chicago: Ready to Learn! Hotline at 312-229-1690 to find out more information about programs that best meet your family's needs.
How to Apply to School-Based Programs
Upcoming School Year (2014 – 2015)
Chicago: Ready to Learn! Applications are currently being accepted at the following application sites.
If you are applying for a child who has a sibling already in a Chicago: Ready to Learn! program, and this sibling will be at the same school next year, the new applicant can apply under the sibling priority. Please see below for instructions.
Required Documentation (This is applicable both to School Year 2014-2015, and 2013-2014. Please note, only one item in each category is necessary.)
- Chicago: Ready to Learn! application
- Proof of child's age*
- Original birth certificate
- State-issued medical card
- Proof of Residency*
- Driver's license/ID card
- Utility bill
- Lease agreement/mortgage statement
- Current voter's registration card
- Proof of Income*
- Current paystub
- SSI Letter
- Unemployment letter/stub
- Workers' compensation letter/stub
- Retirement or pension stub/letter
- Official child support letter
- Income verification form
- Proof of sibling status (For School Year 2014-2015 only)
- Applies only to families with siblings continuing next year in the 3 or 4-year-old program at a school to which they are applying.
- Families wishing to take advantage of this priority must bring proof of the sibling's age, current school, and relationship to the applicant at the time of applying.
Note: this does not apply to families with siblings who will be in the K-12 grade levels at a particular school.
- Proof of active military service of parent/guardian (For School Year 2014-2015 only)
*Families of Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS) are exempt from the supplemental documentation and guardianship requirements. Please click below for more information.
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Parents: Below are links to information you may find useful as your child transitions into preschool.
To find early learning programs near home or work, please visit: chicagoearlylearning.org.
Chicago: Ready to Learn! Hotline at 312-229-1690
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I apply?
A. You may apply to a Chicago: Ready to Learn! program in person at an authorized application site or an authorized application event. For a list of these events, please call 312-229-1690. Paper applications will be available at the application sites or can be downloaded beforehand. Please note that income, residency, and proof of birth documents are required for all application submissions.
Q. What factors are taken into consideration when placing my child?
A. The Chicago: Ready to Learn! program takes a variety of factors into consideration when placing a child, such as a family's income, a child's age, housing type, sibling status, and other factors. For a comprehensive list of entrance priorities, please visit our programs section.
Q. If my child was on the waiting list for the 2013-14 School Year, do I have to re-apply? Why?
A. Each year, all students are given equal opportunity to apply for seats at the upcoming grade level to which they are entering. Students who were placed on a waitlist for the 2013-2014 School Year must re-apply for entrance into a Chicago: Ready to Learn! program for 2014-2015. If your child is on a waitlist for this current school year, and you would like to find out more information about this or to check the status of availability for schools this year, contact 773-553-2010.
Q. Do I need an appointment to apply at one of the application sites?
A. No, you do not need an appointment to apply at one of the application sites. Please visit our how to apply section for a listing of sites and hours of operation.
Q. Can someone other than the child's parent/guardian complete the application?
A. No, only the child's legal guardian can complete an application on his/her behalf. This requirement is only waived for students living in temporary living situations.
Q. I have twins--can they go to the same school?
A. For the Chicago: Ready to Learn! program, parents of twins, triplets and other higher order multiple births have the option of linking their applications together so that the students are either admitted together or placed next to each other on the waitlist. Please inform the associate when you are applying for multiples.
Q. Will siblings be given preference if they have another sibling going to the same school?
A. Applicants will be given entrance priority if they are applying to a school where they have a sibling who is currently enrolled, and will be enrolled in the coming school year, in an Chicago: Ready to Learn! program. Parents must bring supportive documentation to verify that their children live in the same household and that a child attends a particular school at the time of application. Please note that siblings in K-12 grade levels do not count for the sibling priority for the Chicago: Ready to Learn! program.
Q. My child does not currently have an IEP- Do I need them to be evaluated prior to applying?
A. No, although we do offer free Child Find screenings across the city. Alternatively, if you wish to have your child evaluated, you may contact the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS) at 773.553.1800
Q. I am currently living in a temporary living situation-How do I apply?
A. Students in temporary living situations generally follow the same application procedures as everyone else, but are exempt from supplemental documentation requirements. Additionally, students in temporary living situations who are unable to submit the application at a designated site, may receive assistance from a local school staff person in order to submit the application. Please be sure to enter an address on the application where you will be able to receive mail.
Q. How do I register my child?
A. Once you receive a placement letter you must contact the school for a registration date. You will be asked to complete a registration packet.