Pre-School for All – How does one apply?

July 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm 24 comments

A reader writes in… (is that line from the old Roseanne RoseannaDanna SNL skit?)  (for those of you old enough to remember, that is.)

Anyhow, got this note today and I figured since it takes a village to figure out CPS, perhaps we can all join in to help this guy out…

I have a 4 1/2 and a 3 year old daughters and we live in the city and we are trying to figure out the CPS game. I was wondering if you had any ideas on how the free Pre-K for all enrollment works. I know is is based on income. However, it seems like there are more factors then just income. Also, I know that there are waiting lists at schools for spots. How would I go about making sure both my daughters got in at the same school and the same class? Any thoughts on how that would work?

Well, to start off, nobody knows how much longer Pre-K for all will be around.  Funding was retained this year and frankly I’m not quite sure why since CPS is so broke.  In the past, the free PreK (called State Pre-K) was used almost exclusively by families with kids who were considered “at risk” in some way.  That could be financial or developmental.  It was supposedly pretty easy to get your child in… for instance I was told that by having an only child I could convince CPS that he had socialability needs that needed addressing, etc.  But it wasn’t all that popular with families who didn’t have “at risk” kids. 

Once our pal Rod Blago instituted Pre-School for All (great idea, just no money to fund it, Rod!) it became the hottest ticket in town.  Who wouldn’t want 5-day a week free play-based PreK just steps from their home?  Suddenly the programs were overrun with applicants.  Depending on the neighborhood, many kids applying are not high risk at all, but they do qualify.   

Here is my understanding of the program:
-Kid who are at risk still get priority (financial or physical or mental etc)
-The principals seem to decide how to prioritize who gets in and there doesn’t seem to be an official CPS policy (for instance some give neighborhood kids priority, some give 4-year-olds priority.)
-Much of it depends on how many classes the school has.  My neighborhood school has 2 classes.  My son’s school has 6 classes.  Big difference.
-Not every school has PKFA.  For instance Bell does not have room for it.
-Living in a neighborhood does not in any way guarantee you a spot in the local PKFA as it does for Kindergarten.  (Which has been a source of apparent rage in many neighborhoods.)

And here are some of the challenges:
– Because there are so many applicants chomping at the bit, the principal is up against a wall to figure out who gets the spots.  Early.  However in theory they should be saving some spots for kids who are truly at risk but come in to the school to register in the summer.   Those are the kids who really NEED those preK spots.  But I’m not sure whether principals ARE indeed saving spots.  Or how they would know how many to save. 
-Principals have to decide whether to prioritize siblings of kids who may live out of district.  Many schools have kids in older grades who’re out of district and of course the parents want all the kids at the same school.  That causes problems.

How it usually works:
As far as I can tell, there is a bit of anarchy here.  Each school does it differently and begins to take applications for the following school year at some point in the spring of the previous year.  The principal then has their pool of applicants and has to decide who gets the spots.  Some may do first come/first served.  Others may use their priority scheme.     I don’t *think* there is any CPS standard for this.  And parents can apply to as many as they want.

So, answer the freakin’ question already, lady! (Ok, ok!)
For whatever school/s you’re targeting, I would get in there about a week after school starts (give them a week to settle down or they’ll hate you for bothering them) and inquire as to their specific process of admission.  Keep asking until you get a firm answer (this could take a few tries and you might even get different answers!)  Confirm your knowledge with other parents to up the chance that you have correct information.  Get your application in as soon as they say you can.  confirm that they have your application in the right pile/place/folder.   Continue to “maintain a dialogue” (nice way of saying staying on their butt) to let them know of your interst in a nice, flattering way.  Ask whether they have a priorty scheme and what it is to determine whether your 3yo has a shot at getting in (so you know whether to have back-up.)  Continue to monitor the waiting list progress without being a pain (since you’ll have to suck up to get both kids in the same class.)  Wait until next year’s budget comes out to determine whether PKFA will exist next year.  Ponder whether you should apply to any private schools just in case.

God, this is getting comical.  (And long.)
However I think it might be an accurate representation.  I haven’t actually gone through the process though.

Can anyone else help me out here?  Does your school do it differently?  Any tips for this guy?

And as Roseanne RosannaDanna (played by Gilda Radner) would end her little speech, “It’s always something… “

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Replacing Barbara Eason-Watkins New Race Balance at Selective Enrollment/Magnet Schools

24 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hawthorne mom  |  July 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    There is actually language in the Preschool For All policy that 51% of all spots are supposed to go to at risk kids. There is also a policy that they are NOT supposed to take kids whose families make more than 80K a year for a family of four. Nearly every single school I know is in violation of both these policies.

  • 2. RL Julia  |  July 20, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I know that my neighborhood school has two pre-school for all classrooms. As far as I know the priority is first for kids who are identified as being at-risk, then for four year olds. I am not sure, but the program might also only be two hours long.

    If I were really looking for pre-K and it was paramount that both my kids were in the same class, I would probably go to the tuition based Pre-Ks that some schools have started -only because it seems that for those programs it is more of a straight waiting list -your youngest kids isn’t as likely to be trumped by a kid with special needs.

    That being said, it is my impression that three year olds are sort of a lowest man on the totem pole in the Pre-School for All world. This is totally insane to say, but you probably should have started this whole process when your 4.5 year old was 3 or 3.5 for optimal success.

  • 3. Bussing  |  July 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/index.php/entry/759/Huberman%3A_Minority_enrollment_in_city%27s_best_schools_has_%27lost_some_ground%27
    Another big unknown is the level of bus service that the district will provide to elementary magnet, gifted and classical schools. Currently, children living between 1.5 to 6 miles get free busing. But the district is grappling with a $370 million deficit and may have to do away with, or limit, this busing. Huberman said he won’t commit to anything until the district publishes a budget in early August.

  • 4. RL Julia  |  July 21, 2010 at 9:04 am

    At this point, everyone is planning for bussing. If your kid is eligible for bussing, the forms have been sent out.

  • 5. sfw  |  July 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

    If your child gets into a pre school for all program, or a Head Start CPS collaborative, I highly recommend taking it. My son just finished the New Field Head Start collaborative, and he’s one of two kids in the program that that got into Decatur. They do a lot of play, but also get students writing their first and last name, and counting to 25, by kindergarten.
    Head Start /CPS allows a certain percentage of children from over-income families. Sometimes I think the Head Start CPS programs are underutilized, so it can be easier to get in than one might think. Both of my kids got in at age 3. The program is 100 perc federally funded. Head Start got a funding increase under the stimulus act, so there’s no real threat that the program will be cut in the near future.

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  July 24, 2010 at 9:37 am

    July – that is great to hear. I don’t know much about Head Start although I see on the CPS site it is intended for kids at or below poverty level. Being nosy, does your family quality based on that? (I’m just always curious to see if these programs end up with middle income+ families.)
    In my personal opinion, this is the type of preK that should be offered for free, rather than giving every kid in the city (or is it the state?) free preschool.

    Here’s a link…
    http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Preschools/Pages/Headstartchilddevelopmentprogram.aspx

  • 7. Manda  |  July 25, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I have my 4 year old at a community-based Head Start / Preschool for All site run by Easter Seals. We do not qualify on any income guidelines, but I pay daycare tuition. (Not cheap, not crazy – very middle of the road.) Last school year the kids were basically grouped by age with no regard to their primary funding source. Thanks to the budget and new Preschool for All rules (before, all Chicago resident kids were funded, now they have to qualify for free or reduced price lunch), our school has responded by taking all of the kids who do not qualify for the extra money and putting them together in one classroom. We lost our Type 04 certified teacher (although, I must say his replacement is very good and working on a MS in reading instruction, so…) and the school has to be careful about “misappropriating resources” to our kids. It is insane, but the teachers are still really good and they are using the same curriculum / great facilities, so I am choosing to deal with it and watch things like a hawk for the next year.

    BTW – thanks for the blog… I feel far less panicked about going through the applications this fall/winter!

  • 8. Cheryl  |  July 25, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I highly suggest you get to the school now. Most principals are in their office in the AM. You should be able to ask for an application for PK for your 4 yr old and ask if they take 3 yr olds. Many schools do not because of the space issue. The sooner you get that application in the better. Know that most CPS schools that have PK take the at risk lower income first.

  • 9. sfw  |  July 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Our income exceeds what they set for Head Start. Some schools won’t let you in if it does, but others will. I think there at least two in Rogers Park that will. You’re also eligible if you’re child is considered “at risk,” which includes kids with IEPs, regardless of how much income their family earns. So if anyone is interested in sending their kiddos to a Head Start program, my advice is to apply. The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you no.

  • 10. parent  |  July 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I agree that preschool should be provided free for families living below the poverty level, and only to them. I also think families need to prove their income or lack of it with a tax return. I knew families attending our neighborhood head start who owned homes, cars, and more. These were families who openly admitted to lying about their income on the lunch forms.

  • 11. waiting  |  August 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Both of my kids were in the Preschool for All based on need and not income. Factors such as English not as the primary language spoken at home, post-term delivery, jaundiced requiring bili-blanket for home use, c-section and socially delayed got my first child in at age of 3. I recall the teacher testing my child verbally and with play while I filled in the application and was interviewed by another teacher. He was initially wait-listed for the program, but he got in 1 month later. I had no clue that such a program existed and got lucky when I called the neighborhood CPS asking when to apply for regular preschool. The person answered wasn’t clear with what I was asking and forwarded me to the Preschool for All program. My second child got in at age of 3 because of requiring Early Intervention for three areas: 1) speech therapy for developmental speech delay (not hitting milestones… not pointing.. crying because of inability to communicate, etc.), 2) physical therapy because of tip-toed walking and inability to jump or hop requiring orthotics, and 3) development therapy for social delay because of the first two issues. My second child was automatically placed in the Preschool for All once she left Early Intervention based on age and transitioned to an IEP (individualized Educational Plan) which mainly was speech therapy and child psychology services. The whole process was not easy; but because of need, my kids got into the Preschool for All. If it was based only on income and we were rejected for this reason, I am not sure what I would have done as it was so convenient taking the kids 2 hours per day and 5 days per week walking to our local neighborhood CPS for the program. We were honest about our income and got in based on need. I highly recommend the Preschool for All and Early Intervention if you feel your child needs it. It’s time consuming and can be a lot of hassle, but it is all worth it when looking back. If the need and issues are dealt with early, your child will have a higher chance to succeed.

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  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  August 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    This link should get you started….

    http://www.cps.edu/Schools/EarlyChildhood/Pages/Preschoolprogramtypes.aspx

  • 20. Jennifer  |  August 20, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I hate the selection process. Was told at the Board that my son was #12 for Dore School, but when I got the letter from CPS they said her was #46. I was also told that none of the neighborhood kids from the Dore attendance area were picked and they went by low income. WTF is that. My son is going to a Catholic school in the area now 🙂 but that is ok. It is all day!! He seems like it. Its only been his 2nd day

  • 21. goPrivate  |  August 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

    20 it hurts to pay tuition but at least you know what you are getting. CPS…not so much

  • 22. cpsobsessed  |  August 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Free pre school is really intended to help lower income kids catch up before starting kindergarten, so they’re more reading and math ready. Free k-12 is part of public education, while free preschool is not a given for everyone in the city at this point (nor was it, except for a couple years until it proved to be unfundable.).
    Each school admits differently, but priority tends to be given to kids in need for the free admission.

    If your haven’t heard, illinois isn’t exactly rolling in $$ to pay for free nursery school for the entire city 🙂

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 23. Anet  |  August 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

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