Candidates in the Chicago mayoral race discuss the issue of early childhood education at a Feb. 8 forum. From left, Brandon Johnson, Ja’mal Green, Ald. Sophia King and Kam Buckner. Photo: Haroon Rajaee

CHICAGO—Convening at the Logan Center for the Arts in Hyde Park just three weeks ahead of the Feb. 28 mayoral election, seven of the nine candidates competing for the top seat in Chicago addressed the issue of early childhood education in the city.

Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia Photos: Haroon Rajaee

In Chicago, parents who rely on daycares to care for their infants are paying on average $1,400 a month, and parents with children ages three and up are facing average monthly fees of $864.

All the candidates present at the Feb. 8 forum stated they will make early childhood education affordable for all, citing the service is much needed and beneficial to everyone. The candidates continue vying for votes in efforts to unseat Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is running for a second term. The mayor was not present at the forum.

“Early childhood education is a topic that is near and dear to me, as a parent and as a grandparent, I recognize the importance of early childhood education in a child’s life,” said candidate and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. “Having that exposure to that type of opportunity determines life’s chances in success for years to come. It is something that every child should have an opportunity to avail themselves of,” he added.

Roderick Sawyer

“There’s no way we can talk about Chicago’s future, if we’re not talking about investing in our young people. Early childhood education is a public good, and the public good requires public investing,” stated State Rep. Kam Buckner.

Activist Ja’mal Green stated the issue of early childhood education is an important one but not enough is being done. “Under my administration, we’re talking about how we’re going to start investing in the youth early, with the first universal Pre-K program. We’re going to invest and teach children as young as three years old in every zip code in the city,” he said.

Paul Vallas

“When we did the ‘From The Cradle to the Classroom’ program, we had 2,500 kids, we had 500 workers all recruited from the community. This program of 2,500 kids had almost a perfect score of no learning gap by third grade,” stated candidate Paul Vallas.

Ald. Sophia King stated that if she is elected mayor, she would make sure that there is an increase in the city budget “so that we can put our money where our mouth is.” She added, “We often don’t think about long-term consequences. Early childhood education is the biggest predictor of how somebody’s going to do in the future. We need to put more money and allocate more resources in early childhood education.”

One female forum attendee told The Final Call that she thought there was a lot of redundancy in the answers provided by the candidate, but she felt that was good because it shows they are thinking similarly about an issue that impacts so many families. 

Nicole Robinson, stated, “I really liked how the candidates are pushing to raise childcare providers’ salaries.”

Other candidates in attendance were Ald. Roderick Sawyer and Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

(Shawntell Muhammad can be contacted at [email protected].)