CARTERVILLE - The recent recession has produced to a sharp rise in child poverty statewide, and that poverty effects learning development.
The good news is school administrators, teachers and child care specialists in Southern Illinois are attempting to nip the problem early through a variety of special for students and families also, according to Illinois Kids Count. The group conducted a news conference Thursday at Carterville Tri-C Elementary School.
"These are tough times," said Assistant Superintendent Dale Heidbreder, who was conference leader. He was joined by Lori Longueville, director of Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College; Tri-C Principal Sarah Barnstable; and Tri-C Counselor Lisa Stanton.
IKC is a project of Voices for Illinois Children, a state-level project funded through a private foundation that provides annual data to policy makers, the state's board of education, agencies and the public.
The child poverty rate in Illinois jumped from 17 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2009, which was the highest level since 1993, according to data compiled in the latest IKC study.
In Southern Illinois, the numbers were sterner with child poverty rates measured at 30 percent in Franklin County, 31 percent in Jackson County and 26 percent in Williamson County.
There was a correlation between those numbers and the rise of unemployment in the Southern Illinois counties that almost doubled in percentage points during the same period.
Low income student enrollment in the three counties far exceeded the state average of 45 percent with the exception of the Marion school district, which had 43 percent.
The Carbondale and Franklin County school districts finished below the statewide average for reading achievement at the end of the third grade, but Murphysboro and Marion school districts exceeded it.
Especially difficult have been those cases of poverty that came upon a family suddenly, wiping out savings and destroying a fam-ily's plans, Longueville said.
In one example, she said a Franklin County couple, one of them a disabled veteran, had to sell their house and move into subsidized housing because of postponed disability pay.
"They had planned for their future, but they couldn't plan for this," Longueville said.
The news was a little more optimistic from the Tri-C report. Barnstable said screening children early to determine fundamental skills in reading and math has led to a reduction in special education referrals.
"It's not news to educators. Early intervention is the key," Barnstable said.
Stanton said there are Tri-C initiatives to help provide food, clothing and other basic needs to children to help develop their feel-ings of self-worth and a sense of belonging.
She said an adult mentoring program has helped from 25 to 30 students and has been a very positive asset.