Low-Income Students Struggling Behind Wealthier Peers


In just the past ten years, the number of Illinois school districts with a majority of low-income students has jumped 30%.

Advance Illinois is an organization aimed at promoting an education system to prepare all students for success in college and career. The group released a study on Tuesday that said students who come from low-income families are well behind their peers in K-12 and in post secondary education. According to Advance Illinois' report, only 37% of low-income students graduate college in six years. That's compared to 75% for wealthier students.

Educational leaders say to fix the problem, you have to start at the very beginning of a child's life. Dr. Harry Berman, an Advance Illinois Board Member and Former Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, explained, "That means reaching back even to pregnant moms and children in those years of zero, one and two."

Advanced Illinois' report said that just 20% of low-income 4th graders in Illinois are reading proficiently. That's 35% lower than classmates from wealthier families. In eighth grade math, only 18% of low-income students are proficient. Their more affluent peers come in at 47%.

"We have a target" said Dr. Berman. "We know that looking toward the year 2025, 60% of the jobs that will be available for people require some form of post secondary credential."

The State of Illinois has a plan called "60 by 25." The goal is that by the year 2025, 60% of adults have a post secondary degree or credential. To reach that goal, Advance Illinois says the state's broken funding formula must be fixed. Advance Illinois' Executive Director Ginger Ostro said, "What we need is one formula that takes into account both -- what the student needs are, how much local districts provide and that the state system make sure that every district gets the resources needed to meet their students' needs."

For every dollar spent on a student who is not low-income, Illinois spends just 81 cents on a low-income student. That is the lowest in the country.

In Springfield, about 60% of District 186 students are low-income.

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