At least once a year we hear our conscience. It says: “What about the children?”
The newest report contains little solace.
St. Clair County’s children in 2015 lived in poverty at a higher rate than the Illinois average. That’s not the bad news, though.
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Fewer kids were living in poverty a decade earlier, so things got worse for our kids. About 1 in 5 lived in poverty in 2005 versus more than one in four in 2015.
Madison County had slightly fewer kids in poverty than the state average of about 1 in 5.
The Kids Count report looks at different indicators now than before, but a current measure is education achievement by low-income elementary students compared to their peers. The schools doing the best job of getting low-income students to meet standards are anywhere from 20 percentage points to 60 percentage points behind their better-off peers at the top schools.
There are racial gaps, too, but poverty appears to be the great unequalizer.
Poverty’s consort is crime. St. Clair County recorded 1,664 violent crimes in 2015, more than three times the 483 in Madison County.
Kids here have better access to health insurance than the state average, but the data reports there are fewer primary care physicians per kid. Each local doctor has between 500 and 750 more kids to see than the state average.
The state’s revamp of the school funding formula is aimed at reducing the widely varied dollars being spent on our children’s educations. Poor kids deserve an equal shot at what they can gain from a public education.
Start at that root, keep it nurtured, and maybe they grow up with the opportunity to earn the jobs that can lower poverty and lower violence and make 2025’s Kids Count report less distressing.