A coalition of early childhood education advocates spoke out Thursday morning against plans at the City Colleges of Chicago to consolidate child development programs to a single location at Harry Truman College in the North Side Uptown neighborhood.
Four Chicago aldermen joined the advocates at a morning press conference before the City Colleges Board of Trustees meeting. Coalition members, including representatives from the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, said consolidating the educational programs could adversely affect early childhood education students living on the city's South and West Sides, where several programs are closing.
"This will have an enormous hardship on students trying to get to the North Side. It will devastate these programs, and it will take needed support services out of these communities," said Tony Johnston, president of the Cook County College Teachers Union, which represents full-time faculty and other City Colleges staffers.
The child development program consolidation, announced last year and set to be fully implemented in 2018, is part of the City Colleges' "reinvention" initiative, which involves moving certain specialty programs to single sites within the system.
As part of the effort, Truman will house consolidated child development programs from Richard J. Daley College on the Southwest Side, Olive-Harvey College and Kennedy-King College on the South Side, Malcolm X College on the West Side and Harold Washington College in the Loop.
"To ensure students are prepared to seize the 600,000 jobs coming to our region in high-demand fields over the next decade, City Colleges has designated each of its seven colleges as a College to Careers center for excellence," City Colleges spokeswoman Kathryn Hayes said in a statement Thursday. "The Center of Excellence for education at Truman College builds on strong student outcomes in the Truman child development program, and will allow students to take advantage of state-of-the-art child development learning spaces, as well as access strong employer and university partnerships, which have quadrupled at Truman since the Center of Excellence was launched.
"While current child development students will not have to take courses at Truman, it is important to note that the majority of required coursework for prospective child development degrees will continue to be offered across all seven colleges."
Under the new structure, City Colleges says child development students can complete over 75 percent of their required coursework at any college within the system before working on their advanced child development coursework at Truman.
City Colleges also points out that, on average, 60 percent of the "child development completers" at Truman are from the South and West Sides.
If that is the case, the figure represents "strong evidence of the need for an expansion of child development programs in these neighborhoods," the coalition argued in a fact sheet given to the media.
Chicago aldermen, meanwhile, have been calling for city council hearings into the planned child development program consolidation since filing a resolution on the matter in October. The resolution requesting the hearings currently has 14 co-sponsors and is pending in the education committee.
Alds. Chris Taliaferro (29th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and John Arena (45th) stood with the coalition Thursday.
City Colleges is "taking educational programs out of communities that are experiencing high volumes of crime," Taliaferro said, "and we're asking (students) to jump through smaller hoops by going to a centralized location.
"We're asking the City Colleges and the board to look at that, because we're not gonna fight crime by taking educational opportunities out of our communities," the alderman said.
Anita Andrews-Hutchinson is with Child Care Advocates United, an association of Illinois child care providers. Closing child development programs on the South and West Sides would "start to unravel the fabric" of the child care industry, she argued.
"Most of our teachers are locally grown. They come from the community," Andrews-Hutchinson said, noting that she operates two child care centers on the West Side, at which 85 percent of staffers received an education at Malcolm X.
"If we were no longer able to recruit from the neighborhood, recruit from our parent base, recruit from the women and men around the neighborhood, then where will we recruit from?" she said. "We're not going to get people from the North Side to come to the West Side, or come to the South Side of Chicago. We're going to deplete the fabric of our institution."
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