ELEVATING PARENT VOICES & UNDERSTANDING NEED
When Chicago’s public schools closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kids First Chicago team immediately pivoted to do what we do best: ask families what they need.
We spoke to hundreds of parents, learning their concerns about access to basic needs and quality education. We also heard firsthand how deep the digital divide was for our most vulnerable communities and families.
True to our data-driven model, we dug deeper and found that 110,000 Chicago kids in 60,000 households do not have access to broadband.
While learning in CPS had moved online amidst COVID-19, 1 in 5 kids in Chicago couldn’t participate simply because they don’t have reliable in-home internet access.
We released an issue brief, Digital Equity in the Coronavirus Era, in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council. It featured the stories of several parents, including those who were making the impossible choice between paying for food for their kids or paying for internet access.
IMPLEMENTING A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION
To ameliorate these serious concerns from families, we partnered with the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, philanthropists, and Internet Service Providers to champion a long-term sustainable solution.
On June 25, 2020, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago Connected—a groundbreaking multi-year partnership to close Chicago’s digital divide and ensure that 100,000 eligible CPS students and 60,000 households have access to the internet and remote learning. This program is the largest and longest-term in the country, and has been lauded as a national model for closing the digital divide.
In launching Chicago Connected, the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and the city’s philanthropic community have made a historic commitment to eliminating internet access as a barrier to digital learning.
Kids First Chicago leads the core implementation of Chicago Connected and manages relationships with 35 community-based partners across the city, helping to engage hard-to-reach families and ensuring they are set up for successful connections.