Education in the US is mainly provided by the public sector that is controlled and funded by the federal state, the states and local communities. Nevertheless, there are no mandatory public pre-kindergarten or crèche programs. The ages for compulsory education vary by states. In Illinois, a child must have turned 5 years old by the beginning of September to be able to attend Kindergarten. Child education is compulsory and it can be satisfied by educating children in public schools, state-certified private schools and approved home school programs. In public and private schools, education is divided into elementary school, middle school (also known as junior high school) and high school (also named secondary education). Children are divided by age groups into grades ranging from Kindergarten for the youngest (i.e. 5 years old) in elementary schools to the 12th grade (last year of high school).
In Chicago, the public schools are managed by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) organization. There are also a lot of private schools with religious affiliations. For CPS schools, there are no tuition fees. Nevertheless, parents associations in CPS schools are extremely involved in the school life and organize lots of fundraising all around the year to fund among others:
- A full day for Kindergarten because CPS provide the money only for 2 hours and a half of education for kindergarteners.
- Education in music, arts, etc. …
- To keep the ratio students: teachers at a good level and avoid large classes.
The tuition fees in private school are extremely expensive. They are attended, primarily, by students and families with wealthy incomes and obviously attract the best teachers and educators. Fundraising is also very important in local private schools and it must be added to the tuition fee amount.
The level of education is extremely good especially in the best private schools of the city. For public schools, the level varies from one school to another: some are excellent, others are not. Moreover, Chicago Public Schools have a history of high dropout rates, with around half of students failing to graduate for the past 30 years.