PreK Update – How’s it Going?

September 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm 93 comments


A parent wrote today to ask if I’d make a post about feedback on the re-vamped Pre-K program.

If you enrolled your child in CPS half-day PreK, how is it going so far?  The curriculum itself didn’t change but the enrollment and tuition process changed significantly this year.

Have the glitches been worked out now that 2 weeks of school have passed?

For those enrolled for the 2nd year, does anything seem different?

If you’re paying, does it seem like a worthwhile investment?

Anybody know of someone whose child is attending one of the new programs (ie those that were allowed to open in churches etc.)

On a side note, I passed a new PreK (private) that is opening in Lincoln Park and the sign said the school teachers “World Citizenship. Universal Values.  Leadership.”   Wow, quite ambitious for 3 year olds.   But we parents are suckers sometimes, no?







Entry filed under: Pre-School.

Interpretting new ISAT scores Fall 2013 – Applying to Kindergarten / Elementary School

93 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elliott Mason  |  September 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I’m a first-time CPS parent, with my 4.5yo daughter in Ready To Learn preschool at Belding. I have a friend whose identically-aged (within weeks) son is in the same program at a different school in our neighborhood, and the curriculum they’re getting is radically different — I’ve already gotten 4 pieces of homework and she’s had none; she has to do ROBERTO logging and we don’t.

    It’s kind of odd that there’s so much variety between two neighborhood schools (not selective, etc) so close together in the same program. My friend’s school also sent home a mandatory school-supplies list for every family to provide, whereas mine has posted a ‘donations requested’ list on the classroom door instead.

    I have no complaints about the pricing, because it’s orders of magnitude (literally: two digits a month instead of nearly four) cheaper than the private program we had her in and could no longer afford. Of course, that was for 8hrs/3days, instead of 2.5hrs/5days, and their curriculum was insanely awesome.

    Of course, we haven’t actually paid yet, since Belding didn’t make accounts in SMART tuition’s system for their preschool parents until well after Aug 20th (when the billing cycle happens), so we’ll be billed presumably for two months, prorated, on Sept 20th instead.

    I have no idea what my child’s school ID number is, and have had to provide my email address (written on a sheet of paper) four separate times. Many forms require repeated filling-out on paper so the paper can be Xeroxed and kept, instead of (apparently) entered into a central system and the data prepared whenever needed.

    If my kid’s teacher needs to address a note to all the parents, she has to hand-address the envelopes, which is a horrible waste of time for everyone — mail-merge label creation became utterly routine for any office suite in, what, 1989?

  • 2. Veteran  |  September 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Two digit tuition! My friend and her husband who have four children were quoted a price of 425.00 a month which they had to turn down because they could not afford it. Their 3 year old is in a park district program.

    There are wonderful people in CPS who somehow manage to survive the disorganization that is a constant. The endless duplication is mind boggling and stresses out employees and parents yet it doesn’t seem to get better.

  • 3. Elliott Mason  |  September 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    For reference, we have a 3-person household (two parents, one child) and make between $30K and $40K per year; that’s what our sliding scale tuition comes out to. It’s based on income and household size.

  • 4. Brigid Keely  |  September 7, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Hi, I’m Elliot’s friend. We originally tried to get our kids into Volta (which is 1 block further away from me than Hibbard (our neighborhood school) but in the other direction).

    There’s been some poor communication in ways that feel rushed and understaffed, but it seems to be a system wide thing. My 4 1/5 YO has no homework (yet?) other than ROBERTO (logging 20+ minutes of reading a day) but has access to a library at school and picks his own book out to take home. I have no idea about the curriculum, what they’re studying, etc because 3 1/2 year olds are terrible at communicating (“what did you do today?” “I stood in line!”).

    Every time we’ve gotten lunch at the school we’ve just been waved through the line without paying anything, which I find weird but whatever.

    I’ve gotten NO emails (but have gotten pieces of paper shoved into kiddo’s bag) and have no idea what his student ID# is. I don’t know anything about tuition because we qualify for completely subsidized preschool. Will we still have to file something or submit additional paperwork? I have no idea.

  • 5. anonymouse teacher  |  September 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    @1 They tried to give my children homework in preschool too. (CPS) I told the teachers absolutely not. I said it was developmentally inappropriate and that my children would not be doing it. I got a lot of slack for it, but seriously, homework? In preschool? Nonsense! Complete and utter nonsense. Even practicing how to write their name should be optional. Worksheets? Aargh. Come on! What the hell are they teaching in type 04 programs these days? Or are admins forcing teachers into this craziness?

  • 6. RayMom  |  September 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    My son is 3.5 and just started pre-k at Ray in Hyde Park. His teacher is great and the room, toys, books, etc. are much nicer than private pre-k we used for our older son. So far, I’m finding it compares very well with wonderful, but very expensive private pre-k in the neighborhood. Nothing about a bill for tuition yet. I’m nervous because he’s not completely potty trained and probably won’t be for a few months. Will they kick us out? And what happens with tuition in that case??? For my family, I think tuition will be about $4k/yr based on materials I saw when we applied.

  • 7. cpsparent  |  September 8, 2013 at 12:15 am

    @5, anonymous teacher:
    “homework” is not necessarily equivalent to worksheets. When my daughter was in CPS PFA, her teacher gave her homeworks ever couple of weeks. The homeworks were lists of home activities the teacher recommended, such as: talk about things that floats and sinks at bath time, talk about shadows, wind, play some I spot with my little eye something starts with…….. When handing in the homework, we only need to circle the activities that have been done. I found this kind of homework is very appropriate for their age and development and provides parents with ideas.

  • 8. WesLooMom  |  September 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

    One good thing about homework for preschoolers: my child learned that homework was as routine as brushing teeth every day. Sometimes, she was disappointed when she had no homework, like something was missing. She’s in K now. Hope she keeps that attitude.

  • 9. anonymouse teacher  |  September 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

    @7, At my child’s CPS preschool, homework was worksheets and worksheets EVERY SINGLE DAY. I will clarify. Worksheets are not appropriate for preschoolers. Discussions, read alouds, those are what good parenting does regardless of preschool attendance or not. There are a few, typically female, young preschoolers who enjoy worksheets. If they do, great, let them do them. But no 3 or 4 year old should be made to do worksheet homework.

  • 10. Chicago Mama  |  September 8, 2013 at 10:36 am

    From what I can discern, preschool teachers are not generally fond of take-home worksheets and other rote practice. I also told my youngest son’s PFA teacher point-blank that I wouldn’t make my 3-y/o do them. I did push it a bit with him in at 4, but was not overly concerned and he adapted to K without an issue. To me, the most important thing he got out of PFA was learning what good classroom behavior looks like. He is still the kid who doesn’t misbehave or act on impulse within the classroom (although I know things can change, he’s only 6).

    I definitely think there is wide variation in RTL or PFA or even TBPK teaching and curriculum, just as there is wide variety among District K-12 schools.

  • 11. Purplespagirl  |  September 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    My 3 y/o is in the tuition based program. She does have an IEP. I have been disappointed by the lack of communication despite having sent several emails to the teacher. Even more upsetting was the call from the director on Friday at 9:00 am to come get her because she was having a rough morning. I thought a teacher with 20+ years experience would have better classroom management. We are going in on Weds for a meeting.

  • 12. local  |  September 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    @ 11. Purplespagirl | September 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Oh, my. You should consider adding a “parent-school” communication plan directly INTO your IEP. Perhaps a summary email from teacher at end of week, etc. Then, try to make it happen. Also, consider insisting on a positive behavior plan and crisis plan. This “Come get her” stuff is not acceptable. Is the school the wrong placement? Is the staff trained to work with your child? Welcome to CPS sped. Godspeed.

  • […] Some parents, school administrators and City Council members challenge the school district's … PreK Update – How’s it Going? CPSObsessed: A parent wrote today to ask if I’d make a post about feedback on the re-vamped […]

  • 14. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 9, 2013 at 8:56 am

    “World Citizenship. Universal Values. Leadership.” …It’s New World Order propaganda. It desensitizes people because it becomes mantra. The exact wording was used by the National-Socialist Party in Germany during the 1930’s

  • 15. cpsparent  |  September 9, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Mike Godwin is a genius.

  • 16. cpsparent  |  September 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

    We had wonderful experience with the previous CPS PFA program. When my daughter went to preschool @3.5, she barely could speak any English, because she had been in a foreign country for extended period of time prior (almost 5 months), and also because we don’t speak English at home. We had to teach her how to say “I want to pee” word by word. Quick forward, 2 years later, today she speaks fluent English, has made a lot of friends, and is attending K at a top rated classical school. I have to say that her preschool teacher did a marvelous job Good teachers are worth their weight in gold!

    My daughter’s preK class was a good social-economical and racial mix. There are families of lawyers, doctors, , also some low income families.

    Things may have changed a bit this year. My 3.5 year old son applied to the same school for Ready-to-Learn this year and was admitted. I learned that some of the already in families have pulled their 4yr olds out to either private or Tuition-based preschool. We are virtually the only incoming family that have to pay anything ($420+/month for us). The class seems mostly from low income families now. That’s one of the reasons we decided not to enroll our son, who will go to a park district preschool for now. We will send him to either private or CPS Tuition based PreK next year.

    I’m not sure how much money CPS can raise with this slide scale pay (for my son’s class, it’s basically $0 this year). One effect is certain, families with higher income may opt to go private, which is not that much more expensive considering CPS is only 2 hours/day.

  • 17. Angie  |  September 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    @16. cpsparent: “I’m not sure how much money CPS can raise with this slide scale pay (for my son’s class, it’s basically $0 this year). One effect is certain, families with higher income may opt to go private, which is not that much more expensive considering CPS is only 2 hours/day.”

    Maybe their intention is not to raise money, but to steer the higher income people away from PFA, so that lower income families who have no other options can get their children in.

  • 18. Elliott Mason  |  September 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I’d love to know what private preschools you all are finding that are cheaper than $420/mo, because I haven’t seen one …

  • 19. Rod Estvan  |  September 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    That was an interesting insight Angie. However, it raises some real questions about the school district’s attitude towards younger working families living in the city who clearly are not wealthy, but not technically low income either.

    Also “local” gave excellent advice to “Purplespagirl” in the post above.

    Rod Estvan

  • 20. Purplespagirl  |  September 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you so very much for the helpful insight. She is in the tuition based program but I am getting the impression that tuition based = we do not want any special needs children in the classroom. The director and the teacher have called a meeting for us on Wednesday. I’m prepared for the worst. They did say her IEP needs to be re-written. My concern is that they are going to try to put in the PFA, which isn’t full day and we need a full day service. The only option that leaves me is a daycare and she really needs the learning component. I don’t know what we are going to do.

  • 21. karet  |  September 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    @18, All of the parochial schools I looked into near our house (NW side) were about $400 a month for 5 days a week (3 hours a day) or about $275-300 for 3 days a week (3 hours a day). (9 mo. payment plans)

  • 22. Tommy  |  September 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    For $400 , I would happily pay a private school or Catholic school, before I would pay cps.

  • 23. Veteran  |  September 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    #20 I am confused about what is happening with your child.

    At three wouldn’t she have had a new MDC/ IEP because she is either leaving an Early Intervention Program or she was tested when she turned three due to your concerns, a teacher or a pediatrician’s concerns. Obviously, whoever (should be a team)completed the IEP
    threw the job of redoing a poorly written IEP to the neighborhood school which is not fair to you or your child.

    I also don’t understand why you are paying for Pre-K-shouldn’t your child receive services due to her disability?

    If she is having a difficult time in Pre-K maybe the school’s team will write up the IEP for a para which really should be the first step in determining her LRE.

    If you disagree with anything at the meeting make sure you disagree in writing.

  • 24. blaine  |  September 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    4 year-old @ Blaine- only regret is not doing it last year. He is having a blast, loves, and looks forward to going to school everyday!

  • 25. Peirce Parent  |  September 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Peirce preschool – love it. The only concern for me is that the tuition collected is not translating into the classroom (at least according to the teacher). Where is it exactly going? Does anyone know?

  • 26. cpsparent  |  September 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    @17 Angie: “Maybe their intention is not to raise money, but to steer the higher income people away from PFA, so that lower income families who have no other options can get their children in.”

    That makes sense if low income families cannot get into CPS preschool due to higher income families crowed the program. I’m not sure that’s the case. As far as I know, EVERY ONE who applied to the preschool my son applied to was admitted (regardless of income). CPS has been keeping pushing back the application “deadline” from April all the way to Mid-August. That’s a clear sign that they couldn’t find enough 3-4 y/o to fill the seats. To me, money is more likely the motive behind this slide scale tuition thing.

    Based on current CPS financial situation, I won’t be surprised that one day they will charge slide scale tuition at elementary and high school level. With ~85% CPS students qualifying for free lunch, slide scale tuition serves no meaningful purpose other than driving working families away.

  • 27. Frustrated!  |  September 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    This is our second year, and we are still happy. We do not have to pay because we were “grandfathered” in, but if we did, we would go private. I would not pay $450 a month for 15 hours a week! I agree with Angie. I think it’s complete BS. Please find me one low income kid that has not had a spot in cps for PFA in the past. My upper middle class child that goes to school in a wealthy neighborhood is not taking a spot away from anyone! I have to go to black tie fundraisers to raise money for smart boards in my kids cps school, but the schools in the ghetto have them! Who pays the majority of the taxes in this city? the ghetto people? NO! What CPS did was force more people to send their kids to private or flee to the burbs. So sad!:(

  • 28. Hyde Park Mom  |  September 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    @Frustrated,oh my,you are very upset at the ghetto people arent you,so sorry the ghetto have taken so much from your upper middle class elite world. You are a sad reminder of hidden racists,I hope your words were simply written hastily and that surely you jest?

  • 29. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 1:14 am

    to 28: Reading 27’s post she doesn’t appear racist, she appears classist. Having class requires that one stays classy. Everyone’s tired of paying the freight for other parents weight on the school system. The choice to live in Chicago becomes even more tasty when the dead weight drives a new Lexus while shopping with a LINK card at Whole Foods.

  • 30. Hyde Park Mom  |  September 10, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Perhaps classist is a better term than racist.However, I still find her comments very offensive, especially as a single incme family whose children are attending state based preK and can barely afford much.As far as the previous comment regarding shopping at whole foods witha link card, whats your point? That the less well off should shop at the corner gas station in the ghetto and buy pop and chips?
    The less wealthy would also like to eat healthy, live longer, provide for our kids education.Once the less well off are capable of doing so, they too will be paying their share of taxes.But , alas, in the eyes of a classist/racist, we can never be on par with them anyways.

  • 31. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 6:55 am

    I’m going ignore the hyperbolic phrases above. Please feel free to do the same.

    It seems apparent to me that the purpose of the PreK system is to get as many at-risk kids into PreK so they’ll be Kindergarten ready. I’m not saying CPS did this well with the last-minute changes, but that seems to be its motive to me. And the tuition charges are a matter of supply and demand which is required during hard time. I never understood why Tier 4 parents were getting free PreK.

    To Rod’s point about keeping some of the middle class families out of PreK, the city still offers park district PreK pretty cheaply, no? (I see some programs online – $91 for 2 days/week, 1.5 hours, around 10 weeks long.) That’s little over $4/session.

    Given the budget and the limited building space, perhaps the priority should be the lowest income kids. Of course the challenge is getting them to sign up, particularly those who need it the most.

  • 32. That mom  |  September 10, 2013 at 7:34 am

    My 4yo is in her second year at a CPS preschool in a very low-income school. The main thing that we saw change this year is that the preschool classes were almost half empty the first two weeks of school. Normally there is a waiting list. Parents here simply were not able to register using the new system, in some cases due to the complexity of the process, and in other cases due to the logistics of registering in a central location. (Many families here are immigrants who don’t have many English skills or anything beyond grade-school education.)

    They’ve been slowly filling the spots over the past two weeks, and even brought out someone to the school to take applications last week. In my opinion, however, it is never good to have an ever-changing class with new kids almost daily for the first two weeks of school. I am sure a lot of time is being wasted getting the new kids comfortable in the program.

    We were grandfathered in and I am not seeing too much difference. If anything, at least for this school, the new kids seem LESS needy. I think by making the application process so hard, we ended up with more English-speaking families with more education. While I am all for all kids going to preschool, I think they made it impossible for some of the really needy families to get their kids in, due to the difficulty in enrolling them.

  • 33. Esmom  |  September 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

    @20 “I am getting the impression that tuition based = we do not want any special needs children in the classroom.”

    Eek, that seems like a huge red flag regarding the culture of the school in general. My TBPK experience with an IEP kid was the opposite. They (principal, teachers and staff) were amazingly welcoming, inclusive and conscientious.

    Trust your instincts…if you’re getting bad vibes this early then perhaps you should consider moving schools. I know how daunting that can be, as I went through the same thing but that’s how we ultimately arrived at our amazing TBPK program.

    On the flip side, it is early so perhaps you can “reboot” after your shaky start and get things on track. Best of luck to you.

    @23, “I also don’t understand why you are paying for Pre-K-shouldn’t your child receive services due to her disability?”

    I can’t speak for this parent but in my experience we paid for pre-K because the quality of the TBPK program far exceeded the quality of the program my son was placed in based on his IEP. Plus, for some kids with special needs, 2.5 hours a day is not enough time to address the issues. In our case, 5 hours was optimal and worth paying for. Having the day care component of TBPK may be a necessity, too.

  • 34. juliecv  |  September 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I’m still reeling from the preschool homework comments. I cannot fathom what the people who draft these curricula are thinking. I know for sure they cannot ever have actually taught or spent time with actual preschoolers.

  • 35. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I cannot recall at all if my son had homework in prek. Somehow it doesn’t sound that bad to me to maybe send some a letter review sheet or something a couple times a week so kids can practice with parents (esp if the purpose of the program is building skills in households where the parents may not be leading it on their own.).

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 36. brigidkeely  |  September 10, 2013 at 10:02 am

    As the low income parent of a child who goes to what a lot of folks would term “a ghetto school” (one with a very high percentage of non-white, non-affluent students who don’t speak english and who qualify for reduced/free lunch) I just want to say that the incredibly hateful, racist, and classist statements that are allowed to stand in this blog’s comment section are a big part of why I don’t participate more on this blog despite being a reader for 2 years or more. I assure you, my kid’s classroom does not have smart boards, and if it did, would you really deny technology used to teach kids just because those kids aren’t your kids and don’t look like/live like your kids? Do you really believe that some kids are innately better and more deserving of a decent life than other kids?

    A lot of the comments here, and the lack of moderation when it comes to hateful comments, is very troubling. If this is a blog only for affluent white people, fine. I’ll take my low income self to another corner of the internet.

    But it’s incredibly troubling and hurtful to see so many adults place the blame for school inequality not on the shoulders of the politicians who cut school budgets and use TIF money to provide private universities with football stadiums, not on the shoulders of citizens who vote for politicians who promise to cut taxes that fund schools (and libraries), but on the shoulders of children… literal children… who have done nothing to deserve this ire but be born into poverty.

  • 37. cpsparent  |  September 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

    @31 CPSO :”I never understood why Tier 4 parents were getting free PreK.”

    IIRC, the old PFA was for “at risk” children. Low income is just one of many risk factors. Tier 4 kids can still have language and social issues, which also put them into “at risk” category.

  • 38. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

    @37: The fact remains that some families simply have greater ability to pay than others … and perhaps they should contribue more than those who don’t. As a parent commented upthread, some schools have parents that CAN throw them ‘black-tie’ fundraisers — or can throw fundraiseers at all. Other schools have a predomination of parents working multiple jobs who have very little spare time to even see their kids, much less fundraise or volunteer their time.

    As a parent with very little income but the ability to come in and volunteer during the period when my daughter is in preschool, I ‘pay it forward’ with my labor to help the school achieve its goals, while recognizing there may well be lots of parents at my school who simply CANNOT. I do not judge them for ‘freeloading’, I just give what I can and am happy to help.

    Should schools whose parents cannot (not ‘don’t want to, which is different and almost never obtains) provide extra resources to their school be penalized witha massively sub-standard learning environment compared to the schools with largely Tier 4 parents? I don’t think so. The nature of a working PUBLIC school system, to me, is that it evens outputs across the large system so that all kids recieve a sensible par of education — and sometimes this means that the ‘elite’ schools feel ‘shorted’ because if they were their own separate school and not in a system, they might be able to afford more/better. But our entire city benefits from well-educated, well-mannered, socialized kids …

    A real problem of the current high-stakes-testing and culture of scarcity we’ve got going on in CPS is an “I got mine” defensiveness where parents end up viewing other parents as their competitors or enemies.

    The solution is to make sure even the ‘default’ choices, the ones you might get ‘stuck’ with if your kid doesn’t test well or whatever, are still reasonable choices. They may not be ‘elite’ or super-enriched, but every single school in the system should be able to provide a solid education with a smattering of music/art/physical activity/etc.

    Fighting over what we perceive to be the ‘scraps’ and turning on one another (or fleeing to less dysfunctional districts, or pricey private options) only make the underlying problem worse.

  • 39. realchicagomama  |  September 10, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I think when PFA started in 2006-2007, it gave priority to at-risk kids. Then in 2008+, the block grant opened it up to include a mix of kids, because research shows that mixed-income classes produce positive results in all children.

    Also, you can live in tier 4 and not be white, affluent, English-speaker, own your home, completed college. It’s not a universal. I live in tier 4 and could barely afford a single year of parochial preschool for my oldest child. My kids would have gone to CPD preschool if it weren’t for PFA.

  • 40. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

    @37: yes, completely correct – thanks for clarifying!
    Kids who were assessed (and I think that was fairly loosely done) and determined to need preK based on those issues you list were always also top priority. Is my understanding correct that it’s still like that? I’m unclear from the current policy.

    I believe in the past there were some schools that were fairly easy to get into on that basis (ie, I was told that my son being an only child could qualify for needing socialization.) Again, not sure if that’s still true or not.

    FWIW, I tend to use the term Tier 4 loosely meaning non-at-risk, educated parent, english speaker, etc. We probably need a catchy (and non offensive) name for this group and I should probably use the term more descriptively (meaning families who reside in Tier 4 areas, which is obviously not all what I describe above, by any means.)

  • 41. former TBPK mom  |  September 10, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Of course, it would be nice if all families had access to free preschool, but we live in a reality where schools have scare resources.

    Over the past few years, there seemed to be an annual threat that Preschool for All would not get funding, and the program may not operate. Then you see wealthy (not At-risk) families dropping their kids off at (free) Preschool for All. If the funding was so uncertain and scarce, it seems like they could be better utilized (i.e., for children who are truly at risk).

    So, I am not opposed to having wealthy families pay something for Preschool for All. But, the sliding scale CPS is using seems too high. It should be free for low-income families, very inexpensive for middle-income families, and for high-income families, cheap enough to allow the CPS preschool programs compete with private or parochial programs.

  • 42. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

    *** Regarding BrigidKelly’s comment, tell me what you guys think.
    My initial response was “troll – delete” but then I wonder if I’m assuming anyone who has diametrically opposed opinions to most of us on here is a troll if I’m being closed minded.

    Most days here, 99% of tend to agree on things, which probably doesn’t reflect reality.

    Would you rather comments like that are deleted? Or kept to demonstrate other viewpoints (in this case I still get the sense of trolling, given the hyperbole used.)

    Let me know what you think.

  • 43. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    To 42: I have no relation to #36 (BridgeKelly’s) and realize her position is meant to incite discussion. I don’t like her position, but keep it, freedom of speech in America.

    To 36: People on this blog care A LOT about education. We want results now, and don’t want excuses. We all know the biggest problem is broken homes. No one is placing blame on the children, we live by “there go I but the grace of God.” Bottom line is we can’t afford to keep spending money with horrific results. Check out the City and States financial statements.

    To 30: You missed the point. 1. Lexus and 2. Whole Foods has very high prices. I shop at ALDI which is owned by Trader Joes. Read the labels and buy substantially similiar products at a lower price. Spend the money foolishly when it’s your own, but when it’s government money please respect the source. America will be stronger because of it, and it will teach frugality to your family. The lesson will hopefully allow your children to become the “millionaire next door.”

    PS. When that happens, you’ll be understanding of Tier 4 positions that allowed you to build your wealth.

  • 44. realchicagomama  |  September 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Everyone had different priorities. Didn’t the mayor just host a press conference with Whole Foods CEO about proposed WF in Englewood, the first installment of RE’s promise to reduce food deserts? Shopping for fresh food doesn’t have to be reserved for the well-to-do. Why so much judgment based on trivial things? I hope that when I die, I’ll be remembered for the things I did, the ways I contributed, the way I treated people rather than where I shop for food, what kind of car I drive, and what my hair/makeup/clothes look like.

  • 45. HSObsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    @42 While I understand Brigid’s frustration, I don’t agree with deleting posts like #27/Frustrated’s. If every time someone posts something that doesn’t reflect most readers’ views is deleted, it doesn’t encourage robust discussions. You can only hope that other readers step up and call them out on their statements (as others did here).

  • 46. neighborhood parent  |  September 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    CPSO – wouldn’t that make one troll-suspecting of Elliott Mason too?

    I vote against deleting.
    We are having a fine experience with RTL Preschool. As veteran, tier-4 parents (the euphemistic def.) we are appreciative of our neighborhood school option with our professional & dedicated teachers. We are happy to pay for a wonderful program….. it only puts us on par with our peers in the burbs who don’t get free-PK.

    As a parent at a Level 2 school (another euphemistic way of saying – high poverty, large immigrant, mostly rental, multi-lingual, not white/mostly shades of brown) I can easily see the disenfranchising, powerlessness of a constituency that doesn’t have an economic, political or social voice. I can understand the outburst although I think there’s been an over-reaction in @36.

    Just my 2Cents.

  • 47. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    To: 45
    #27’s statement is from the heart. #27 was in lock step with #16. To write “you can only hope that readers step up and call them out” gives the impression that #27’s viewpoint is erroneous. #27 is frustrated that the system currently in place does not have a flat rate for all children no matter what someones status in life presents. Treat all children the same (ie: no Tiers) then the blame cannot be placed on CPS/courts/politicians/morality. The blame will be on nature/nurture (ie:survival of the fittest, or in this case the smartest)

  • 48. Frustrated!  |  September 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I am #27/frustrated. First of all, you do not know my race. And if you did, i think you would be surprised. Second of all, I said nothing about race. You implied that. When I used the term ghetto, i don’t care what the race is. I am just tired of certain people getting everything for free, including preschool, when they contribute very few tax dollars. Let’s face it, look at the supposed sought after schools in teh city. Who made them that way? Fact is fact. It’s ridiculous to say that my comments should be deleted just because they don’t mirror yours. In my opinion, CPS needs to keep teh tier 3 and 4 parents happy, because without them, there will be very few “good” cps schools.

  • 49. Hyde Park Mom  |  September 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    @27frustrated,your comments irk me even more as I read your latest post.So,because of tier 3/4 ,the so called good schools are the best in the city?What faulty logic.I hope you arent a lawyer,by the way,with that kind of srsame street logic.Newsflash: there are some hard working,first generation college families who stress a great education and hence their kids succeed and go to top schools,colleges,despite lower income.Im living proof of that,and im passing that on to my own kids.Its not money that makes one classy,nor smarter.Its the values,upbringing that determines such attributes.There are classy poor people and vice versa.With your elitist attitude towards education,you would be better off in a different country where education is a privelege granted only to certain castes.Wake up!

  • 50. LUV2europe  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    49. i think you missed 27’s point. I took it to mean without tier 3 and 4 parents working and paying (high) taxes to support CPS, the schools would be much worse off then they are today. If tier 3 and 4 parents left for the subrubs, CPS would really suck.

  • 51. Frustrated!  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Hyde park mom, I didn’t say that only schools in tier 3 and 4 are good, what I said was, look at the most sought after schools in the city. Who made them so “sought after”. And nope, not a lawyer:)

  • 52. @50  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Yes – as we know from past experience

  • 53. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I hope I don’t come off as attempting to shut down discussion in any way, but my reading of Brigid’s post is her deep frustration and hurt at the sheer level of vitriolic, hateful language being used in (a very small minority of) posts here, language which sets parents against each other and makes some of us the enemy of the others (when in relatiy, we ALL want good education for our kids from CPS).

    Calling other CPS parents ‘ghetto people’ or ‘freeloaders’, or implying that ‘low income’ parents/families/children are automatically behind academically or problem-makers, will only make lower-income parents feel attacked and desperately unwelcome … which will prevent them from participating here in these discussions.

    Do we need to be an echo-chamber of people throwing around hateful language, or can we take just a moment or two longer to reread our posts and make sure we’re not letting “I’m in pain and frustrated” bleed over into “and Those People are the enemy”?

  • 54. frustrated!  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Elliot, I agree with you, but you need to look at statistics. Low income children and ELL children are behind academically. However, that is not what this thread is about. It’s about how CPS is choosing to make preschoo free for some, and $450 a month for others. Our neighbors have triplets. Are they considered tier 4? Yes. But just barely. So it really sucks that they should have to pay $1400 a month for their kids to go to preschool for 2.5 hours a day. His former coworker, has 5 kids by 5 different men, doesn’t work, is on welfare and her kids get to go to preschool for free. This is the problem with our city and cps.

  • 55. luveurope  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    55 …and the park district….but that’s another story!

  • 56. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    To: 49
    “Frustrated and CPS parent have solid posts.” This is supposed to be an exchange of ideas, not a parroting of politically sanitized Democratic-Socialist approved dogma.

    CPS obsessed comment at 42 was the most alarming, because it goes right to the heart of the credibility of this blog. Open discussion is the key to a free society and the solution to the complex social experiment disaster in Chicago (CPS).

    I say it again, if your on this blog Thank-you! Your comments are analyzed by movers and shakers of CPS policy.

  • 57. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    frustrated @54: The tuition pro-rate has nothing to do with what tier you live in and everything to do with how much money your household makes. If you have one earning adult and five kids, that’s a 6-person household (at whatever income) for purposes of calculating tuition. If you have two parents and triplets, that’s a 5-person household (at whatever income), and they run the equation.

    If your household can sustain the economic cost, CPS will charge you for it. I will say I don’t know anyone personally who’s actually paying the maximum of $427.70/mo, because mostly I don’t know people who make that much money. The actual CPS calculator is available for running real numbers and getting real answers; for example, my 3-person household would have to make $77,400/yr to pay the maximum. I can’t imagine making that much money; I’ve never lived in a household that made more than $45K, and that was with two working adults with office jobs (in the 90s, so not today’s money).

    That said, the mainstream private preschool we used to send our daughter to costs in the close neighborhood of $1000/mo for 3 full-time (8 hour) days, and that was by far the cheapest we found when we were last looking.

    We would really like her to be in for more than the miniscule CPS preschool day (for one thing, it would mean I could actually potentially have a paying job; right now my entire job is taking her to school and back and watching her all the rest of the time), but anything we’ve found would be so significantly much higher (much closer to $1000/mo) than the double-digits pro-rated CPS version, that that’s what we went with.

    I hope people who comment here regularly have seen enough activity from me to know that I’m a commited, interested parent who wants to share information and learn at the feet of those more experienced in the CPS trenches. I just think (a) CPS, at max price, is reasonable value for money, and (b) hating on poor parents is utterly counterproductive and will only make one long to move to the suburbs. :->

  • 58. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    To: 57
    Great post. If we tweaked CPS policy by making sure neighborhood schools were as enticing as selective enrollment we would have more families moving from the suburbs into the city. We also wouldn’t have 200,000 African Americans abandoning Chicago as shown in the last Census. The bottom line is people keep voting Democratic and expect different results. It’s not gonna happen. Especially with too many safety nets to include LINK, WIC, Section 8, SNAP, and SSI. When you combine them all together, is it even worthwhile to work and push your children to study hard? I say no, and there are some in the ghetto that agree while laughing in line at Whole Foods.

    PS. It’s nice how posts can be tied together. It’s called political corruption.

  • 59. luveurope  |  September 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    it’s called entitlement and it encourages total lack of responsibility.

  • 60. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    58: Nice use of a nonexistent extreme exaggerated case. I don’t know if you know anyone on those social-safety-net programs — I do. None of them are on them by choice. All of them would much rather be employed for enough money to not qualify for them anymore. But if the choice is ‘starve to death’ or ‘go on assistance,’ you go on assistance. And even assuming an ideally-poor individual who qualified for ALL of them, if you add together all the benefit, the living standard is not amazing.

    That ‘ghetto Whole Foods’ is ridiculous, because hardly anyone in the neighborhood would be able to afford to shop there. At least a Trader Joe’s might be more within-reach, but the WF guy is the one who pushed and used his clout, so that’s what there is. I’ll be amazed if the store’s still there in a year — and if it is, it’s because of people driving in (for whom it’s still their most convenient WF even if it’s a 45min drive from home).

    I would submit that anyone interested enough in their children’s future to be trying to get information, and participating on this blog, can be determined to not have an ‘entitlement’ mindset or a lack of responsibility.

    Can we quit throwing hateful, spiteful phrases around and go back to talking about, I dunno, public education? And not assuming the existence of mythical evil life-sucking poor people?

  • 61. cpsobsessed  |  September 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    “And not assuming the existence of mythical evil life-sucking poor people?”

    I’m for that.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 62. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    And, honestly, even if evil life-sucking poor people existed they wouldn’t change the shape of our problem: trying to get our schools (and ALL neighborhood schools) up to a reasonable standard of education.

    Not every school will ever be world-class levels of OSSIM (much as we might hope to get all our kids right into w-c-l-o-O schools right off the bat). They can, however, be workable, and right now, a lot of CPS schools really aren’t.

    I happen to live in-area for one … or, rather, they’re an amazing school if no one in your household speaks English very well, apparently. However, kids for whom that is not true end up socially excluded and at the edge of things, neither learning anything nor having friends. So I’d rather not send my kid there. :->

    My quest: getting my kid into one of the other neighborhood schools walking-distance from my house, all of which are perfectly fine by my standards (and one of whom I THOUGHT my house was in-map for, when we bought the house last year! Oops). And then to dig in, roll up my sleeves, and make sure whatever school we end up in gets as much help as I can manage to shake loose for them.

  • 63. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    To 60: A. I do know many people on public aid.
    B. It is not an extreme exaggerated case. FOIA the information and you will see for yourself that a huge chunk of society is now on “all” of the public aid programs I mentioned. By the way if your on all, the dollar amount would equal $38,000-$45,000 a year. I know because I am involved in tax return work.
    C. The back story on the Whole Foods is speculated as the following. By having a Whole Foods in Englewood, the LINK card customers in Englewood will be able to petition to have the monthly amount increased because the price of food would be higher in their food desert. As you may know 15-20% of LINK card activity is sold for cash at .50 cents on the dollar. So it’s a cash bonanza for the criminal mindset.
    D. I’m sorry, we have to talk about all the warts in Chicago in order to come out a better city.
    E. The goal is to have every employer say “Oh, your a graduate of the Chicago Public School system, we’ve always had good luck with previous employees educated by CPS.” Sorta like, “Oh, you went to Loyola Academy, Fenwick, or St. Ignatius….your hired.”
    F. Hard discussions aren’t racist, spiteful, or deceitful. They challenge us to improve outcomes.

  • 64. Elliott Mason  |  September 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    63: Hard discussions certainly don’t HAVE to be racist, spiteful, or deceitful, and I hope we can manage to keep them from being so, in future.

  • 65. cpsparent  |  September 11, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I started reading this blog after my daughter already took the SEES test almost a year ago. Everybody here really cares about CPS, not only their own kids, but all the kids as well, after all, they are the future. Sometimes people air their frustration about the politics and CPS ill advised moves, but I wouldn’t take that as racist or classiest.

    In this Pre-K sliding scale payment move, on paper, it sounds like people with means should help to keep Pre-K open. Good! The question is: does this have meaningful impact if AT ALL?

    Let’s do some math. CPS has ~25,000 Pre-K children. Based on CPS low income percentage (~85% qualifying for free lunch), only 3750 families need to pay from $1~$420/month, ok let’s say $2,000/year average for each family. That’s $7.5 million/year, basically pocket change for CPS. Not long ago, CPS awarded a $20 million (3 year) no-bid contract to a company that trains school principals. Hey! The Pre-K parents are basically paying for principal training for the next 3 years.

    By nickel and dime “tire 4” parents, CPS sends a message to young families: why not just move to the burbs. These people happen to be the ones who pay income taxes and property taxes, and more of their kids can potentially making decent schools and that really can benefit all the children in Chicago.

  • 66. Peter  |  September 11, 2013 at 10:18 am,0,5495977.story

    For the moronic poster who thinks the drop in CPS scores was unique.

  • 67. karet  |  September 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

    @Elliott, It’s interesting that you couldn’t find a private preschool for less that $1000 for 3 full days. By “mainstream” I assume you mean that it has no religious affiliation?
    The parochial schools offer a really good deal, so I know a lot of diverse families (atheist, gay, non-Christian, and so on) who choose them (for preschool) because they offer a solid education at an affordable price.
    Many of the schools I looked into (Immaculate Conception – on Talcott, St. Robert’s Bellarmine, St. Constance, St. Thecla, St. John’s Lutheran, Lutheran Trinity, St. Juliana, and so on) offer 3 full days for the same cost as 5 half days (around $400, or closer to $500 if you need extended care).
    I wonder why there aren’t other private options in that price range? I’m sure there would be a huge interest — especially now that CPS is charging.

  • 68. cpsobsessed  |  September 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I think the church subsidizes the parochial schools (and the teachers may make less $) because they’re always priced so reasonably versus private. Plus I suppose they have a building availabe vs having to pay rent.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 69. Elliott Mason  |  September 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    karet @67: Unfortunately, any religious/Jesus content whatsoever in the classroom is an absolute dealbreaker for us. Other families have different constraints, of course.

    It was months ago and I don’t have my call-sheet in front of me, but I spent the better part of a day doing phone tag with every preschool Google could find me anywhere near our house asking for their rates, and the lowest end was about $600/wk for 5 days of 6 hours each. Which is for us still an unattainable price.

  • 70. Elliott Mason  |  September 12, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Oh, in the department of new information: it turns out my daughter is in a mixed 3s/4s classroom. I found this out by talking to another parent; his kid just turned 3 in August. My daughter turns 5 in January; another of her classmates (I asked around) turns 5 October 1st.

    That is a really, really wide range of ages to be dealing with in a single classroom, especially since it includes ELLs with home languages not spoken fluently by the teachers (as well as ELLs whose home language the teachers are bilingual in).

    Is this normal? I had assumed the norm was to have a 3yo classroom and a 4yo classroom and cover things differently in the two places.

  • 71. realchicagomama  |  September 12, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Yes, this is how PFA has always been in my experience. With only 20 kids, an aide, and usually some parent volunteers, our PK teacher was able to differentiate learning to each child, and I found it was good for my children to watch the older kids model and then become the models/leaders of the younger children the following year. In previous years, however, I know Belding prioritized 4-y/os and rarely took 3-y/os within the system.

    In many ways, PK reflects the larger system age-wise. There are children whose birthdays are in August in the same class as children born in September of the previous year.

  • 72. another Peirce parent  |  September 12, 2013 at 8:58 am

    glad to see the thread get back on topic….
    we are enjoying PK… my 3 yo is learning classmates names, understanding that school has expectations/rules to follow, washes her hands dutifully, increased interest in letters and has recited numerous songs at dinner. Really, it’s exactly what I thought it would be.
    And yes, all our classrooms are mixed age too…. I see the strengths of the age-range… the older kids can model and be veteran and the younger kids are seeing their example. I don’t expect any “worksheet homework” but I believe that the teacher might provide an occasisional “project assignment” (bring in a picture of your family, draw a picture of your grandparent, etc.)
    Totally worth the $$ for us.

  • 73. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    @68:”I think the church subsidizes the parochial schools (and the teachers may make less $)…”

    I doubt it. Diocese subsides ended long ago.

  • 74. Lilly's Dad  |  September 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I have not been contacted by CPS or Smart Tuition for the billing of our RTL program costs…yet we are already 6 weeks into the program.

    We were told to expect the maximum monthly cost. Is anyone else out there still waiting to be billed, or even contacted?

  • 75. Kris  |  October 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    We have also not been billed. We signed up online with smarttuition in August. Cps has not activated the account. I called smart tuition and they said there was nothing I could pay. There was nothing due? I’m also wondering what’s going on?

  • 76. anonymouse teacher  |  October 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    @73, the teachers definitely make less money–around 50% or less of what most CPS teachers make.
    @74-75, I am sure this is not funny to you at all, but for some reason, I started laughing hysterically at your posts. Give it another few months and then maybe it will work. And be prepared for them to expect and demand any money you might owe them—immediately. My principal can’t even log onto the teacher observations/ratings website that is required. And guess what? When she can’t get onto the system, her bosses yell at her. For real. This is CPS and nothing, absolutely nothing works like it is supposed to. Welcome to school-crazy.

  • 77. classes  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Do all schools have three class times per day- a morning, afternoon, and night? I’ve never heard of a 3:30-6 PK class before this year.

  • 78. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Most schools do a morning and afternoon shift. The late shift is probably more common in schools that are getting crowded and losing classroom space but don’t want to turn out the current prek kids.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 79. classes  |  October 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    thanks for the info! Seems like such a long day for the teachers.

  • 80. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Agreed! They tried it at my neighborhood school and I think it only lasted one year.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 81. Lilly's Dad  |  October 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I contacted SMART TUITION today and my daughter’s school is not yet active in their system, although they did find the school.

    They also advised me that there is a fee to setup an account once my billing starts. So let me get this straight…CPS chooses to outsource their billing to a professional vendor (that’s a good idea), but they pass the costs along to the parents (that does not seem reasonable to me)?

  • 82. ChicagoMedic  |  October 12, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Heres a doozy for you. I’ve had to take up a second job to pay for our daughters pre school at Stock. The school is great. That isn’t our problem. Our daughter and us both love the teachers and school. We live a half black away from the school. Between my wife and I we now work four jobs. So our mother in law watches the kids a lot. She doesn’t drive or speak much english so she is able to walk our daughter to school since it is so close. We have no other option for school because they would be too far away to have her walk.

    Upon getting accepted into Pre-K we were told we had to pay $400 a month. Upon receiving our first bill it said we have to pay $325 monthly. We payed that. Now as of yesterday our smart tuition changed our monthly payments to $377.00. What is going on? They aren’t open so I can’t call to complain yet. Who is the idiot controlling this?

    If the answer to scaled tuition is my wife and I having to get part time jobs in order to pay for pre school the system is broken. Why should I have to work extra hard when other people don’t even have to work to send their kids to school? What a crock. I work a 24/48 schedule and know am working two 12 hour shift a week at another job part time. Thats potentially 72 hours a week. I’m thinking long and hard about removing my child from the program because it is not worth never being home to see them in order to send them to a 2 hour program everyday.

  • 83. Veteran  |  October 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Hmmm! I thought that if a child grew up in a home where a second language was spoken then that child qualified for free pre-school….considered at risk and pre-school would counter any lags in English acquisition….

  • 84. ChicagoMedic  |  October 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    They made us do a language skill test when we enrolled. However English is the primary language spoken in our home and our daughter speaks it just fine and is not lagging. Despite the typos in my prior post we do speak English in the house! haha! I’m not looking to game the system. I’ll either pay the overpriced payment or drop her out. I’m on the fence currently.

  • 85. cpsparent  |  October 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    @83 Veteran:
    There is no “at risk” evaluation now. Everyone can get in CPS pre-K, just the income based slide-scale tuition. To me, that’s wrong and unfair.

  • 86. SouthSideMom  |  December 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Wanted to sign up my child for half day Pre-k this year. My son is 4 years old. We live in the south-side of Chicago. I believe that CPS has just outed working class families from there programs. I cannot afford the tuition in order to have my child in school for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Very disappointed, My home school is Fairfield Academy.

  • 87. SoxSideIrish4  |  December 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    86. SouthSideMom | December 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Isn’t Fairfield a “pre school for all”? I didn’t think it was tuition based. Read this page and if need be call the contact person

    Also, you may want to contact Chicago Park District~they have wonderful Kiddy Colleges & Pre Schools.

  • 88. SouthSideMom  |  December 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    @36 I applaud you

  • 89. SouthSideMom  |  December 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    @87 When I went to the school to register early in the year. I was told of the new process. I was given a sheet with the new process for registration and income verification is a must unless your child was in the program the year before.

    I appreciate the information, thank you.

  • 90. neighborhood parent  |  December 16, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Pre School for All has now become Ready to Learn complete with sliding scale tuition. it’s a new year.

  • 91. SouthSideMom  |  December 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    @90 yes it is Ready To learn. Thank you

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