An annual tracking of child well-being finds huge gaps statewide in educational access and achievement that spans birth through college, and disproportionally affects low-income and minority children.
Illinois Kids Count 2017, being released Thursday by Voices for Illinois Children, blames systemic inequities in access to early childhood education, public funding for kindergarten through 12th grade, and both readiness for and access to college for those disheartening education statistics.
The annual report by the advocacy group shines new light on the critical nature of recent reforms to Illinois’ public education funding system. It found 82 percent of state kids most in need had access to preschool in 2015.
In 2016, only 22 percent of third-graders in that same population were meeting English Language Arts standards; and only 14 percent of sixth-graders were meeting math standards. Racial disparities in graduation rates remain entrenched. In 2016, only 75 percent of African-American students graduated in four years; 81 percent of Hispanic students, and 90 percent of white students. […]
Of those enrolling in college, less than half were meeting college readiness benchmarks, and only 60 percent were graduating from public or private nonprofit colleges and universities.
* From Voices for Illinois Children…
“The data in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book clearly proves that to build a future for Illinois where every child is a high achiever, we must reduce systemic inequities and increase support for the students who need it most,” said Tasha Green Cruzat, President of Voices for Illinois Children. “It’s time for leaders across Illinois to fulfill their promise to all our children by providing adequate revenue for quality and competitive programming. We must close the achievement gap and give children, in every community, the tools they need to reach their full potential.”
Through recent policy and budget changes – specifically affecting early childhood education programs, K-12 funding, school breakfast options, after school program access, high school and postsecondary alignment – Illinois has taken steps to reduce educational inequities for children across the state. The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book concludes that in order to build on the State’s foundation and continue the progress of these policies, Illinois must raise additional revenue.
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book concludes Illinois will only make systemic gains in education for all groups of students by:
· Increasing investments in quality early childhood education programs for low and middle-income children;
· Examining and addressing inequities in school resources, teacher and principal distribution, course rigor and discipline practices;
· Coordinating support services so that every child has access to food, safe after-school programming and mental and health services.
“This information shines a clear light on where Illinois has made progress and where challenges remain,” said Anna Rowan, KIDS COUNT Manager at Voices for Illinois Children. “The expansion of access to early childhood education is promising, yet too many children still lag behind and graduate high school without the tools they need for college and a career. While new policies are a step in the right direction, we must continue to make necessary investments, especially in low-income and minority communities, so every child has the chance succeed.”
* From the introduction to the report…
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community — that represent what children need most to thrive. Illinois ranks:
10th in health. Illinois has been a national leader in providing children with access to health insurance. From 2010 to 2015, Illinois cut the uninsured rates for African-American and Latino children in half, from 6 percent to 3 percent, for both groups.
13th in education. Early childhood education has been a bright spot for Illinois. Less than half of 3- and 4-year olds do not attend school, ranking the state fifth in this indicator. However, the state still has significant work to do to close the achievement and attainment gaps that exist between low-income and minority students from their white and more affluent peers.
25th in economic well-being. Illinois families continue to struggle with economic security. Although more kids’ parents are now working full-time, year-round jobs than in 2010, the percentage of children living in poverty has not changed when comparing the height of the Great Recession in 2010 to 2015 data.
28th in the family and community domain. Illinois has made great strides in reducing the teen birth rate. There were more than 6,000 fewer teen births in 2015 than in 2010. But there are still far too many children living in high-poverty areas and in single-parent families.
The data show that key investments in health and early education have reduced racial disparities among children. Although Latino children still lag behind in preschool attendance, there is little difference between the percentage of African-American and white children who aren’t attending preschool. Additionally, all groups of kids are accessing health insurance at roughly the same rate. However, there is still work to do to lessen other disparities. For example, more than two-thirds of the half a million Illinois children living in poverty are children of color. If Illinois elected officials fail to enact a budget for a third year, we run the very real risk of causing disparities to grow and wiping out the progress we’ve made.
The full report is here.