In the state of Illinois, 26 percent of children under the age of five are Latino. The state's early education system simply cannot keep up with the needs of the increasing number of English language learners in Chicago and throughout Illinois. To provide Spanish-speaking Latino children with better opportunities for success in English-speaking schools, the McCormick Foundation teamed up with Chicago's Latino Policy Forum. McCormick awarded the nonprofit a $375,000 two-year grant to fund two separate education initiatives (Read McCormick Foundation: Chicago Grants).
The larger portion of this recent grant is going toward the expansion of the Latino Policy Forum's Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors) program. The purpose of this program is to narrow and close the achievement gap between Latino and non-Latino children from birth to five years old. Abriendo Puertas' interactive curriculum focuses on key strengths and cultural values of local Latino families. It's been a part of the Chicago program since 2010, serving 25 Chicago-area Latino organizations and equipping over a thousand Latino parents with the knowledge and tools they need to support their children. A substantial recent gift from the Pritzker Children's Initiative allowed the program to expand throughout the rest of Illinois in 2013.
The remainder of McCormick's $375,000 grant will be going toward a data collection and mapping project about young English language learners. This is a particular issue in the Chicago Public School (CPS) District because over one-third of CPS students are Latino, and around 14 percent of CPS students have limited English proficiency. In the past, the Latino Policy Forum has found CPS to be unwilling or unable to comply with requirements for data collection and reporting for English language learners. Funding from outside sources, such as the McCormick Foundation will help the nonprofit collect data on its own terms and devise strategies to boost learning retention and performance with additional resources.
The McCormick Foundation is a national leader in early education funding. In June 2013, the foundation announced its 20-year commitment to quality early childhood education with nearly $6 million in new grants for the birth-to-five demographic. "There is no better foundation we can provide for our children's success and our community's future than investments being made in quality early care and education programs," said David Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. "We applaud the tireless work and collaboration of our grantees and partners who, over the past 20 years, have been committed to helping every child, in every community have access to a quality education."