The “Chicago Ready to Learn!” Grant Program

Feast or famine funding – this is how Emile Dawisha of Chicago Now describes a potential scenario for Chicago’s child care funding in the coming years.

Dawisha recently reported that hundreds of child care agencies in Chicago have received these memos about the new grant program called Chicago Ready to Learn!1

The program itself would receive funding from the federal Head Start program, the Chicago Public Schools’ Preschool for All program and the Illinois Board of Education’s Preventive Initiative program.

Now the good thing about this is that access to all three sources of funding is made easy by applying to the Chicago Ready to Learn! program instead of applying to the three individual programs. Child care agencies won’t need to have to go through a mountain of paperwork to maximize funding.

The problem here is that there are no clauses for reapplication should care centers miss the October 1 deadline, and there is no mention of any extension of applications from 2013 onwards.

“In other words, Ready to Learn is less of an opportunity and more of an ultimatum,” says Dawisha about the frightening possibility that many child care centers would not be able to extend funding to moms and their children. This could possibly happen if a child care center does not meet the eligibility requirements for funding or if they apply late for the program.

If the center you leave your child with does not get the funding in time, you could find yourself paying a lot more out of your pocket even if you and your child are perfectly eligible for aid.

Here’s a quick overview of the Chicago Ready to Learn! program, although this would be more of a concern for the child care agencies rather than individual mothers.

It is still worth noting, though, so you can ask and find out if the child care center you currently send your child to has applied for the program or not.

  1. Source: ChicagoNow, Chicago’s new feast-or-famine child care grant opportunity