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Report: Recession Continues to Take its Toll on IL Children

February 9, 2012

CHICAGO - State budget woes continue to take their toll on the children of Illinois. The new Kids Count report was released today, and it shows Illinois children taking one step forward and two steps back.

The forward momentum came in health care. The report shows that more than 95 percent of Illinois children have health insurance.

However, Kathy Ryg, president of Voices for Illinois Children, says lots of children lost access to early childhood education, and she doesn't want to see the state backslide.

"We absolutely cannot let up. We risk losing an entire generation of children: 18,000 kids, 3- and 4-year-olds, will not have a preschool experience because of the budget cuts."

Ryg says teens lost out, too, because after-school programs aimed at preventing dropouts have been cut in half in the last four years. And despite some signs of recovery, the poverty rate for Illinois children is stuck at about 20 percent.

When it comes to decisions about the new budget, Ryg says policymakers need to remember one thing.

"For every dollar spent on quality early childhood there's a seven-dollar return on investment. That's what gets us to economic recovery. That's what businesses care about."

Ryg says school-based mental health services took a 20 percent hit since the recession began, at a time when statistics show that students need the help.

"Fifteen percent of Illinois high school students seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months, and 9 percent attempted it one or more times."

Ryg says the report also shows a big disparity between ethnic groups when it comes to poverty. Forty-one percent of African American children live in poverty; for Hispanics it's 26 percent; and it's about 10 percent for white and Asian children.

The full report is available at

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL