The education advocacy group Advance Illinois has issued a "report card" on the state's public schools. It says things are improving, but not nearly enough. Some of the findings are scandalous: only a third of Illinois fourth graders can read proficiently, and for African Americans, that number is just 12 percent. Advance pulled those numbers from a federal study known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One of the few bright spots is that Illinois is a national leader in making sure that three and four year olds have access to pre-kindergarten education. Robin Steans, the director of Advance Illinois, says there's a big caveat with that: state-funded pre-K is serving less than a third of eligible children:
"While it's terrific to be ahead, you sort of feel like you're the tallest midget, instead of feeling like you're really serving as many children as you need and you want."
Steans says with the pressures on the state budget, pre-K funding and the number of slots available are starting to move in the wrong direction.
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