CHICAGO — February marks six months since the first bus carrying migrants arrived in Chicago from Texas. Others followed, carrying an estimated 4,000 people, including 775 children.
Many of those children are now enrolled in schools across the city and suburbs.
WGN Investigates recently spent a day in the classroom to gauge how some of the youngest students are faring.
One of them, Stiven, 5, recently arrived from Honduras. He has been attending El Valor, a nonprofit early learning center on the city’s Southwest Side. The nonprofit understands and is prepared to help with the challenges that arriving children are facing, something not every school is equipped to do.
“When you get notice that in three days you are going to have 40 students…that’s a stressor on the system,” said Dr. Michael Connolly, superintendent of Community Consolidated School District 21 in Wheeling.
In Chicago, WGN Investigates obtained records showing at least 24 elementary schools added at least 20 new students to “English as a Second Language” Programs. Two of the schools added 100 new pupils.
But many schools, in the suburbs, have received little-to-no-additional funds to help those children.
In Springfield, state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Democrat from Streamwood, introduced a bill to provide $35 million to suburban schools in need of help. The bill didn’t pass. But he plans to reintroduce it again.
“I think any reasonable person would understand we need to do something about this,” Crespo said.
Illinois has a grant program to help districts pay for language and cultural programs for new arrivals. Of the 853 school districts statewide, only 80, or about 10 percent have received money through that channel.