Elgin early childhood, technical education initiative seeks additional funding from U-46
An Elgin-based education initiative working to provide early childhood support and career programs for local students is seeking more funding.
Alignment Collaborative for Education, or ACE, is requesting an additional $51,000 from Elgin Area School District U-46 -- among its many partners -- for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
U-46 previously had agreed to provide $75,000 distributed over three years.
The U-46 school board is expected to approve a one-year extension of the partnership with ACE at its Dec. 17 meeting.
CEO Tony Sanders told the school board Monday if the district were to undertake the work ACE is doing, it would cost much more than $51,000.
Launched in 2015, ACE is a partnership among U-46, Elgin Community College, Judson University, the city of Elgin, Gail Borden Public Library, the villages of Bartlett, Burlington and Hanover Park, Hanover Township, Advocate Sherman Hospital, the Grand Victoria Foundation, United Way of Elgin, and other government, nonprofit, business and community groups.
Its goals are building more business and industry partnerships to train a workforce better aligned to market demands, supporting early childhood education intervention, supporting and expanding career and technical education opportunities, and providing trauma-informed care in schools. Trauma-informed care is a treatment framework that involves recognizing and responding to the effects of trauma in schools.
Among ACE's priorities are preparing more students to enter kindergarten and raising the number of third-graders performing at grade level in reading and math. Efforts also are underway to provide a trauma-informed care approach for at-risk students at Larkin High School, Abbott Middle School, Highland and Harriett Gifford elementary schools, all in Elgin, and Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin.
ACE's yearly operating budget is under $200,000, including salaries for its executive director and another full-time employee.
U-46 school board member Jeanette Ward said ACE should be fully funded by donations as was originally intended, rather than with taxpayer funding. Since its inception, ACE partners collectively have spent more than $650,000, she said.
ACE Executive Director Nancy Coleman said the district is getting a huge return on investment in volunteer hours, program funding and other resources. The group's business partnerships have grown from under 60 a year ago to more than 120 partners to date, she said.
"We've got 300-plus volunteers that are working on this. We can continue to bring in significant resources to U-46," said Coleman, adding many foundations and corporate sponsors will fund programs, such as work-based learning for students and expos.
Among ACE's achievements is helping organize U-46's annual career expo drawing more than 2,800 eighth-graders to the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates this year.
Board member Phil Costello said he supports spending the money for creating innovative partnerships and programs.
"I think it's a good investment even if I can't see tangible results right here today," he said. "This is not a leap of faith. It's a progress report that we'll be looking for."