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Jack Vrett (R), a candidate for state representative, stressed the importance of supporting education in Illinois during an interview with North Cook News.
Parental rights within schools and high property taxes funding public education have been issues for constituents in the past, but now many state-level candidates are elevating these issues in their campaigns.
"Education should not be a partisan issue, and we must face the facts that many students were left behind during the pandemic," Vrett said. "My parents were both educators, and I have the utmost respect for the parents, teachers, and students who are struggling due to the top-heavy and bloated educational system. We need to make our educational system more open and transparent for parents and teachers alike and dedicate resources where they can do the most.
"Our priority must be getting back to basics like math, science, and reading; expanding gifted and talented programs; and developing partnerships with trade organizations and vocational learning centers so our young people have options for rewarding careers after high school."
The state of Illinois spent $17,293 per pupil as of 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state spent $33,854,627 on so-called all functions, which include salaries, wages, and employee benefits. New York, California, and Texas are the only states that spent more than Illinois; all three of those states have a high population as well. The same survey showed that Illinois' neighbor, Indiana, spent $10,935 per student and Wisconsin spent $12,740 per student.
A larger budget does not always translate to better results, however. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that only 34% of Illinois eighth-graders were proficient in math as of 2019. The same report showed that only 35% of Illinois eighth-graders were proficient in reading, and only 28% were proficient in science. In comparison, 37% of Indiana eighth-graders were proficient in math, 37% were proficient in reading, and 36% were proficient in science. In Wisconsin, 41% of eighth-graders were proficient in math, 39% were proficient in reading, and 40% were proficient in science.
A Chicago Tribune article published in December 2021 reported on data accumulated from approximately 90% of the school districts that administered the Illinois Assessment of Readiness. The test was given to students in third through eighth grade and the SAT was given to juniors in high school. The data revealed that, between 2019 and 2021, 17% fewer students met grade-level standards in English/language arts, and 18% fewer students met grade-level standards in math. The participation rates were also lower compared to prior years, with approximately 70% of students taking the tests.
There was a decline in enrollment from 2020 through 2021 of approximately 70,000 students statewide, according to the Illinois Report Card. This was a significant increase from the decline of 27,501 students from 2019 through 2020.
Jack Vrett is a candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives, District 53 (Arlington Heights), his website noted. He is a veteran, former prosecutor, husband, and father running for office on a platform of promoting economic growth, fighting taxes and inflation, and ensuring public safety.