Poverty, ignorance: Illinois fails its kids

Education. It used to be one of the top priorities of both national and state government. The nation’s leaders believed a well-educated populace brought higher per capita incomes, higher gross national product figures, a generally healthier economy, a stronger political infra-structure—in short, happier citizens.

Welcome to 1987—the year of poverty in education.

Illinois students from 33 urban high schools rank in the bottom 1 percent nationally on the ACT standardized college entrance exam. Researchers have asked themselves why this is true—as well they should.

The answer: one out of every three school-aged children in this state lives in poverty.

That means one out of every three children is not adequately fed or clothed. It means one in every three children is facing at least some of the many problems that accompany poverty—tragically low self-esteem and hopelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy and an alarming teenage crime rate.

A state that ranks in the top 10 percent in per capita income in the nation has shamefully condemned 33 percent of its children to a lifetime of poverty and ignorance. And with the current trend in education non-funding, test scores are going nowhere but down. The bottom is dropping out—and lawmakers had better wake up.

Lower test scores mean fewer college students and even fewer graduates—and more unskilled, unemployed workers.

For the legislators out there who are resting comfortably in their $150,000 homes with full stomachs, that means Illinois won’t be in the top 10 percent in per capita income for very long. Unless they’re going to try relocating the poor out of state.

Big business won’t want to invest in a poor Illinois. Big businessmen won’t want to invest in Illinois politicians’ re-election campaigns. The citizens of this state will see action from Springfield when reality finally hits legislators where they live—in their political treasuries.

In the meantime, there are a lot of hungry kids out there. And hungry kids don’t learn to read and write and do arithmetic as well as they should—if at all. They rarely grow up to be rocket scientists, doctors or dentists.

But maybe Illinois will get lucky—maybe a couple of these children will grow up to be legislators. The kind with a conscience.