That's the number of Latino four-year-olds who attended pre-school in Illinois, which is well below the national average, according to a new study out of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California-Berkeley. Two-thirds of white and Asian-American children and 54 percent of African-American children are generally enrolled.
The discrepancy is in part cultural, particularly among recent immigrants; language barriers and immigration status questions, the author found, lead more parents in Latino communities to keep their child at home with family. The effects, however, are clear. As early as age two, Latino children begin to lag behind their peers in early reading skills. That's because early intervention plays a crucial role in the lives of children, specifically those from underprivileged backgrounds.
This year, the General Assembly mandated that public schools with pre-school programs must offer a bilingual education to kids for which English is a second language, the first state government in the nation to do so. And the governor used his special budget authority to restore early ed cuts for the current fiscal year. But until the budget crisis is fixed, school funding will remain in flux.