CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new program Monday to bridge the early childhood education gap for poverty level inner city kids.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the mayor came to an early childhood education center in the Marquette Park neighborhood Monday morning to announce a new $6 million center to serve four-year-olds on the Southwest Side, as well as a plan to make sure all poverty level kids in Chicago had similar access to a pre-school program.

“There’s a real hole there, a donut hole, and we’re gonna fill it to make sure there’s universal pre-k just like universal kindergarten throughout the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.

“You want them third grade because that’s the single leading indicator for future economic and educational success, then you can’t skip that year,” said Ric Estrada with Metropolitan Family Services.

The program could bolster Emanuel’s efforts to combat inner city violence.

“There’s no doubt if a child is on the trajectory education wise, they have tomorrow to think about,” he said. “That means they do something stupid today.”

More and more, educators and politicians are emphasizing early childhood education. Governor Quinn included a billion dollar birth to five-year-old plan in his budget, but couldn’t find the money.

Mayor Emanuel has made high school graduation rates a priority and says starting early is the key to getting kids involved and committed.

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