Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship


  • Professional Learning

Chicago, Illinois

In 2018, through a partnership between the Mayor’s Office, City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), Harry S. Truman College, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the Department of Family & Support Services (DFSS), Chicago created the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CELWS) initiative. CELWS empowers the early learning workforce to take courses and earn a credential, degree, endorsement or licensure to work with young children (birth through pre-K) and families in Chicago programs. The scholarship covers 100% of tuition, plus up to $250 in books per course, but it functions as a “last dollar” scholarship in that it covers everything that students’ federal grants and other scholarships do not. The scholarship is open to any Chicago resident who wants to enter the early childhood workforce. Parents of children enrolled in a Chicago program and recent high-school graduates are encouraged to apply, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are eligible. CELWS recipients must commit to working in a Chicago early learning program (including CPS Pre-K and Head Start/Early Head Start/PFA/PI funded community-based programs) for a minimum of three years after completing the degree or approved academic program.


Chicago Early Learning. (n.d.). Workforce Scholarship.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

The early education workforce is the foundation upon which all daily work and any expansion and quality improvement efforts rest. Research suggests that states and cities should invest in the workforce across all early education setting types, focusing on enhancing educators’ professional learning,Professional learning: Learning and support activities (e.g., coaching) that help develop educators’ competencies and skills. compensation, and workplace conditions.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Early educators play a critical role in supporting the well-being of young children and families across setting types.
  • Yet their pay, benefits, and other professional supports are often inadequate in light of the job demands and their cost of living.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Chicago

Context matters. Visit the Chicago profile page to learn more about the city landscape.

Visit the Chicago Profile Here
  • The City Population is 2,696,555
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 62%
  • The median family income among households with children 72,300