Kids Count Data Book shows IL children fare well in health care, lag in academics

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The 2024 Kids Count Data Book was released this week.

The publication is a 50-state report of data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation about the overall welfare of kids since the pandemic. Illinois ranked 30th in economic well-being, 10th in education, 20th in health, and 27th in family and community.

Loukishia Pennix, chief youth and family potential officer for the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, was encouraged by the results, which show kids are receiving adequate medical care.

“We’re better with having children who have health insurance overall, and that’s probably due to folks accessing Obamacare,” Pennix observed. “The city of Chicago is opening up more resources in the area of medical services, so I think that’s helping the upswing in family and community.”

Pennix sees the 2024 Data Book as an important tool for lawmakers to use when crafting legislation for equity in policies and programs for all Illinois children. In other findings, Illinois ranked 29th for children in poverty, or living in families with at least one parent who is chronically unemployed.

The Data Book showed two-thirds of Illinois fourth graders scored below reading proficiency and almost three-quarters of eighth graders were not proficient in math. Absenteeism was a major cause. In 2021-2022, 32% of Illinois children were chronically absent from school. Child advocates want lawmakers to solve low attendance rates rather than criminalize students or parents.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said it will take a team effort.

“It is an all hands on deck moment,” Boissiere asserted. “Both the resources within school, the resources within communities and engaging parents as part of the process to make sure that students have the support that they need and that children have the support that they need in order to succeed.”

Intensive tutoring for students who are behind in their classes was another suggestion. The report warned of hundreds of billions of dollars in lost future earnings and trillions of dollars in lost economic activity if grade schoolers transition from teens to adulthood on their current path.

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