My guess is you consider yourself a pretty good parent. Or, if your parenting days are over, perhaps you are proud of just how good a grandparent you have become.
What if I told you that you’re guilty of neglect?
You and I, the parents and grandparents of Illinois, are neglecting our children and grandchildren. We are failing to do our part to prepare a world for them in which they can happily, successfully — and even safely — live, work and raise their own children.
There are about 1.9 million children in Illinois schools from kindergarten through high school. In 10 or 15 or 20 years, these children will be our children’s or grandchildren’s neighbors, co-workers, physicians, auto mechanics, bank tellers, waiters and police officers.
That’s if we give them a decent education.
Without such an education, they can just as easily become the underemployed workers, the perpetual welfare recipients, the homeless, even the criminals that will make our children’s and grandchildren’s world a much less pleasant place in which to live.
Providing a decent education costs money. And, sure, it takes more than just money. We need competent teachers, committed parents, the right curriculum. But unless we also commit adequate financial resources, we simply cannot give children the education they need to be responsible and productive citizens of the future — our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
In Illinois, we fund our schools largely through property taxes, with the state providing a minimum base of funding. The richer the community, the richer the schools. Poorer communities have less money to educate their children.
In fact, the per pupil funding in our area can be nearly four times as much in one community as it is in another just a few miles away. The children who have the fewest resources in their families and neighborhoods also have the fewest resources in their schools.
The issue of school funding is once again being debated in our state legislature. Many well-informed citizens groups are advocating that schools be funded through the state income tax rather than through property taxes. They want a truly adequate standard level of funding available for all pupils in all our schools.
And students from families and communities with the fewest resources would receive additional funds to help them “catch up.”
Often, the opponents of such a plan protest that it would ultimately diminish the quality of education in our state. Our best schools would simply sink into mediocrity, they warn.
But that’s up to us. We can more than adequately fund each and every school in this state if that’s where we decide to spend our money. And local communities could, and hopefully would, donate extra time and money to further enhance their own school’s program.
We Illinois parents and grandparents are guilty of neglect — future neglect. We can raise healthy, happy, well-educated children and grandchildren, but we still will not be doing enough for them if we do not educate the rest of their generation. It’s up to us.
• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaritan Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of “Mix Don’t Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children.”