Parents nationwide are still battling the impact of stringent school closures and lockdowns during the pandemic, and Chicago families are no exception.
An alarming report revealed dozens of Chicago schools claim no students are proficient in either math or reading, despite the state and federal government funneling billions of dollars into education in the Windy City.
Illinois State Sen. Willie Preston (D), who is a father of six, joined “Fox & Friends First” to discuss the report and how parents and lawmakers in the city can help children excel in the classroom post-pandemic.
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“Government isn’t the anthem for all things,” Preston told Griff Jenkins. “I think that we have to re-engage parents, have parents actively take a role inside the schools when they can be, but in addition, we need to make certain that we… spend our money in the right way as it pertains to our children’s education.”
Wirepoints released the findings, stemming from 2022 data from the Illinois Department of Education, which indicated that in 55 Chicago public schools no students were reported proficient in either math or reading.
There were 22 schools who had no students who could read at grade level, and another 33 schools claimed no students could perform math at grade level.
Statewide, there were 53 schools that reported no students proficient in math, and another 30 schools reported zero students could read at grade level.
Preston blamed the academic decline on the pandemic, given the virtual and remote learning students were forced to partake in amid stringent lockdowns and school closures.
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“I believe this is something that is a byproduct of some of our policies that we’re taking during COVID,” Preston said. “This is a very serious issue and one that as a father and as a lawmaker, I’m going to be addressing feverishly.”
But even the authors of the Wirepoints report, Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner, pushed back against that narrative noting that 2019 levels were not significantly better than the data from 2022.
“Defenders of the current system are sure to invoke covid as the big reason for the low scores, but a look at the 2019 numbers show that the reading and math numbers were only slightly better than they are now,” they wrote.
The pair also noted the issue is likely not stemming from a lack of funding.
Just this fiscal year alone, Illinois has allocated $9.4 billion to Chicago Public Schools, while the federal government has also allocated an additional $1.8 billion to the school system through the American Rescue Plan.
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Despite the gravity of the report, Preston argued teachers cannot be the only scapegoat for the tremendous achievement gap in the classroom.
“I don’t know that it’s fair to lay this all at the feet of teachers. I think there are other factors,” Preston said. “There are a lot of children that are facing homelessness that are not attending classes regularly. There are a number of factors in addition to that… a lot of these children are coming from poverty-stricken communities.”
“As a community we just can’t focus on the dollars being put in the classroom,” he continued. “We have to reengage a working-class, rebuilding working-class communities.”
Preston said he is hopeful that Chicago can reverse the trend by re-appropriating tax dollars “the right way.”
“I think there’s more that we can glean from this is what I’m getting at,” Preston said. “We have to figure out why. Is it just the teachers? I think if it’s just the teachers, then we have an issue, but I don’t think that’s the case here. This is stemming from a larger issue in Chicago overall.”
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Fox News Digital previously received a statement from a representative for Chicago Public Schools reading:
“As 2022 academic scores were reported last fall, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) saw that, by and large, our scores were consistent with other large urban districts. We have reminded our community that these scores are a direct reflection of the pandemic challenges, not a reflection of the extraordinary talent and potential of our students and staff. We expect a strong recovery this year and next and are hopeful these gains will be reflected in our internal assessments, grades and classroom engagement, as well as State assessments.
The majority of schools listed in the recent Wirepoints report are CPS Options Schools which serve students who re-enrolled after dropping out. Options Schools serve some of our most vulnerable students who face higher rates of challenges related to special education, housing instability, involvement in the justice system, and victimization. The combination of these challenges lead to higher rates of mobility, transiency, chronic absenteeism, and disengagement from school for extended periods of time.”
The statement added that “we remain optimistic about the strides that we believe all students will make this school year.”
Fox News’ Alexander Hall contributed to this report.