To The Herald-Whig:
As our students start school in the coming days, they will learn valuable skills and knowledge that will carry them throughout their careers. Unfortunately, some students will not complete high school, and some are falling behind even before then.
Illinois performs better than much of the country; however, 25 percent of high school students do not graduate on time. And we have more work to do with our younger students because 67 percent of eighth-graders are below grade level in math and 67 percent of fourth-graders read below grade level.
A recent report from the business leaders group, America's Edge, shows that one of the best ways to correct this is high-quality early care and education. And the best part – investing in early learning will help strengthen our state's fragile economic recovery now.
Across Illinois, business leaders examine bottom lines and scrutinize how to generate the highest return from every dollar invested. America's Edge research confirms that Illinois can generate a total of $2.17 for every $1 invested in quality early learning. Such a rate of return certainly elevates early care and education as a significant economic sector that spurs real economic development for our state.
Last year, Quincy was ranked eighth in best small cities to raise a family, a rewarding result of our efforts to support local businesses and community. In these hard economic times, Adams County has an unemployment rate well below the national and state levels.
As our economy recovers, we need to be strategically poised to attract skilled individuals. Just as excellent K-12 schools and strong higher education institutions will draw workers and new businesses to our area, access to quality early learning is essential to families with young children.
And a quality early care and education system will also increase graduation rates. One long-term study showed that children enrolled in a high-quality program were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than similar children who did not participate.
Through quality early care and education we can prepare our students for future careers while boosting the local economy.
Bank of Springfield