The job market demands specialized knowledge, a variety of skills and advanced degrees. Latino children should have access to high quality education that prepares them to be college ready, civically engaged and economically productive members of society.  In a state as diverse as Illinois, improving educational achievement is everyone’s responsibility. Resources and investments have not kept pace with the growth in Latino student population. A targeted and deliberate approach to improving the future of Latinos and English Learners (ELs) ensures a bright and prosperous future for all of Illinois.

Latino children—99 percent of whom are US-born or naturalized citizens—represent nearly one in four public school students in Illinois. Latinos make up its largest student body in Chicago Public Schools at 46 percent while suburban and downstate Illinois classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse as six in 10 Latinos now live outside of the urban area. 

The state’s English Learner population accounts for nearly 10 percent of the public school population and 16 percent of Chicago Public Schools students.  More than 80 percent of English Learners are Spanish-speaking.  In order to maximize this future workforce, Illinois must equitably allocate resources to support these youth.  

Latinos and English Learners students face barriers to accessing high quality, culturally and linguistically responsive education.  It’s time to remodel the system support multilingual skills and build on the rich diversity of all students. The need for action is urgent!

The Forum has contributed to the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, and drafted a blueprint to advocate for Latinos and English Learners concentrating on the birth-to-3rd grade period in order to pave the way for children to graduate high school and be college and career ready.  

The education agenda covers three areas: