A children's advocacy group says Illinois lawmakers grappling with the state's budget mess must make funding preschool a priority because enrollment has slipped 20,000 over the past four years after a decade of gains. That's the assessment of Voices for Illinois Children, which released its annual Kids Count report that details lingering educational, poverty and other challenges affecting young people across Illinois. The group's president, Gaylord Gieseke, also urges legislators to do what it takes to rid Illinois of a ``very sobering'' distinction, the nation's worst in state funding for public education. She says the state is at a crossroads, and that early childhood education is the group's highest priority.
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