ILLINOIS — Illinois’ Black lawmakers are demanding reforms to the state’s education system they say is failing Black children.
The Legislative Black Caucus hosted a news conference at Chicago State University on Wednesday to discuss historical inequities in education that members said have unjustly held back Black children for generations.
“Changes needed for our students are happening too slowly,” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood. “We cannot afford to have another generation of students to be on the school-to-prison pipeline. We need to leverage this moment in time to identify bold measures that will reimagine our school system beyond the limitations of the programs we have tried in the past.”
In Illinois, 22 percent of Black students are ready for kindergarten, 15 percent can read by fourth grade, and Black students have a 75 percent graduation rate, Lightford said. Each of those metrics falls behind children of different races.
Education and workforce development is the second pillar in the caucus’ Black Lives Matter movement agenda, a platform of reforms they say will repair generations of systemic racism and inequity. They also plan to address criminal justice reform, healthcare access and violence reduction.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said the Black community often gets verbal support for its initiatives, but that support tends to wane when the time for action comes.
“We’re here and the objective is not to just simply walk through the door but to kick it wide open and really do what’s necessary to make sure that the education systems – from early childhood to K-12, high school and secondary education – that all of those pillars do everything possible to make sure that the education of Black people is recognized and put at the forefront,” he said.
The caucus also announced they’d secured $100,000 from various corporations to help close the digital divide among Black students while they learn remotely.
The reforms come amid a national reckoning with racism and oppression of Black people spurred on by the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of white police officers who are facing criminal charges.
The members would later meet for a subject matter hearing on early childhood education.
The Center Square – Cole Lauterbach