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Report details challenges facing Illinois children

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- In an election year, a group that advocates on behalf of Illinois children is calling on officials and candidates for public office to focus on the many issues facing the state's young people.

Voices for Illinois Children says its Illinois Kids Count 2012 report, released Thursday, shows "children are caught in a 'budget crossfire' at both the state and federal levels, while policymakers are neglecting long-term investments in children."

In 2010, one in five children in Illinois were living in poverty, and more than 33,000 homeless children were attending public schools, according to the report.

Here are some other highlights:

  • Budget cuts and delayed payments for pre-kindergarten programs have resulted in 11,400 fewer children enrolled, and additional cuts this year could prevent an additional 6,700 from obtaining these services.
  • State funding for school- and community-based mental health services for children and teens has been cut by 20 percent since the 2009 fiscal year.
  • The reduction of income eligibility for the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program from 200 percent of poverty level to 185 percent could cut off services for more than 9,000 children.

As governments looks to cut budgets, Voices for Illinois Children is urging them to do so in ways that don't reduce "effective public investments in children."

“We must summon the political will to ensure that children are provided with the opportunities to develop their full potential, or we risk losing an entire generation of children — and jeopardizing our future workforce,” Kathy Ryg, the group's president, said in a written statement. “Policymakers must make hard decisions about how to allocate limited resources. We know what works, and we’re asking to safeguard the progress that’s been made. Investing in opportunities for children now can help ensure the future well-being of everyone in the state.”

Here are the report's figures for Champaign County:

Unemployment: In the first nine months of 2011, the unemployment rate in Champaign County was 8.2 percent, compared with 9.4 percent statewide.

Child poverty: In 2009-2010, the child poverty rate in Champaign County was 21 percent, compared with 19 percent statewide.

Median household income: In 2009-10, median household income in Champaign County was $43,952 – 18 percent below the statewide median.

Medical assistance enrollment: Between 2005 and 2011, the number of children in Champaign County enrolled in Medicaid and related programs rose from 13,200 to 19,600, an increase of about 49 percent, compared with the statewide increase of 45 percent.

Low-income student enrollment: In school year 2010-11, low-income students represented 53 percent of enrollment in the Champaign School District, 66 percent in the Urbana School District, and 48 percent statewide.

High school graduation rates: In school year 2010-11, the high school graduation rate was 82 percent in the Champaign School District, 88 percent the Urbana School District, and 84 percent statewide.

Racial-ethnic composition of child population: 

  2000 2010
White 71.8% 60.6%
African-American 17.3% 20%
Latino 3% 7.7%
Asian 4% 6%

Source: Illinois Kids County 2012 Local Findings


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