A children’s advocacy group says Illinois lawmakers grappling with the state’s budget mess must make funding preschool a priority because enrollment has slipped 20,000 over the past four years after a decade of gains.
That’s the assessment of Voices for Illinois Children, which released its annual Kids Count report that details lingering educational, poverty and other challenges affecting young people across Illinois.
The group’s president, Gaylord Gieseke, also urges legislators to do what it takes to rid Illinois of a “very sobering” distinction _ the nation’s worst in state funding for public education.
She says the state is at a crossroads, and that early childhood education is the group’s highest priority.
The percentage of the county’s children living in poverty has gone up from 13 percent in 1999 to 23 percent today. That places the Sangamon county above the state average.
Family income has dropped about 14 percent during that period.
Education is also feeling the impact as there are fewer state funded preschool program slots and high school graduation, at 68 percent in Springfield public schools, lags the state average of 82 percent.
Low income students make up 60 percent of kids in Springfield District 186. The statewide average is less than 50 percent.
In just over a decade, Illinois children enrolled in Medicaid and other related health care programs has more than doubled.