The State We’re In


November 2016

Fellow Illinoisans,

It has been eight years since Advance Illinois began its work to support a healthy state public education system—an education system with clear goals, high standards, sufficient resources and excellent educators. While Advance Illinois has accomplished much, we still have more to do to ensure all students receive the high-quality education they deserve—and our futures demand.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the economic success of our state, and our citizens, hinges on our progress toward this educational vision. Our next generation of employees, our next generation of entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators, our next generation of Illinois’ leaders, is entering kindergarten today. The schools that greet them must be competitive with cutting-edge education available overseas and elsewhere in the United States.

With this report, we take a clear-eyed look at the state of public education in Illinois today and offer educational milestones on the road to 2025. For the first time, The State We’re In includes interim targets to meet marketplace demands and achieve the state’s goal of 60% of Illinoisans with a postsecondary degree or credential by the year 2025. Some may believe these are too aspirational or even unrealistic. But we believe reaching these goals will help to achieve the ideal outcome: a robust, student-centered public education system that improves the current well-being and future livelihood of our children.

As we approach our 10th anniversary, Advance Illinois intends to build on its past legislative successes and continue to advocate in Springfield for equity-driven and data-centered policies that benefit all students, particularly low-income students who need the most support.

Fundamentally, Illinois must invest in its chronically underfunded school districts and raise our ranking—now worst in the nation—for state funding of education. The state should begin by addressing inequitable school funding and close gaps between high-income and low-income districts. Our elementary test scores show some of the largest income-based disparities in the nation. The terrible spread of concentrated poverty throughout Illinois exacerbates this inequity.

At the same time, transformational initiatives already under way can help guide the state toward its goal of 60% of adults with a postsecondary education by 2025. We know we can’t develop these initiatives alone, but we can set reasonable yet ambitious interim targets and partner with business, communities, educators and policymakers to build the local education infrastructure, as the state provides the framework and supports for success.

We look forward to working with partners across the state to imagine solutions and galvanize transformative action. Our future depends on it.


Chair, Advance Illinois

Executive Director, Advance Illinois


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