More than 2-in-5 Chicago low-income students chronically absent

More than 2-in-5 Chicago low-income students chronically absent

Chronic absenteeism rates are higher in Chicago than statewide, with 44% of low-income Chicago students missing at least 10% of their days in school.

Chronic absenteeism in Chicago Public Schools remained high in 2023 after it “skyrocketed during the pandemic,” according to a press release from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Nearly 40% of CPS students were chronically absent in the 2022-2023 school year. That compares to a statewide rate of 28%.

The rate is even higher among Chicago’s low-income students, who were disproportionately affected by pandemic-era school closures. Nearly 44% missed at least 10% of school days in 2023, compared to 26% in 2019.

Many low-income students were left without options during the pandemic. Now, many Chicago low-income students continue to lag their peers when it comes to proficiency.

Chronic absenteeism among Chicago’s low-income students

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school days per year, either with or without a valid excuse. That means nearly half of Chicago students from low-income families missed 17 or more days of school.

Chronic absenteeism rose for all students in CPS between 2019 and 2023, from 24% to 40%. But for disadvantaged students it went from 26% to 44%.

Research shows frequent absences from school place children and adolescents at a higher risk of poor outcomes, such as dropping out of school and lower academic achievement. Experts also find lower socioeconomic status is associated with higher levels of absenteeism.

Amid high rates of absenteeism, students from low-income families in CPS are struggling to meet proficiency in core subjects. Just 19% of 3rd through 8th grade students from low-income families met proficiency standards in reading and 11% in math this spring.

Missing school certainly can’t help.

High chronic absenteeism among Black and Hispanic students

Chronic absenteeism is also high among Chicago’s Black and Hispanic students, and it was significantly higher than the rates among white and Asian students.

Nearly 46% of Black Chicago students were chronically absent, along with 40% of Hispanic students. That is compared to 27% of white students and only 21% of Asian students, the group with the lowest rate of absenteeism.

CTU ends schooling options for low-income students

Chicago Teachers Union leadership fought to keep CPS students out of in-person learning for most of the 17 months pandemic orders and union actions kept kids out of school. During that time chronic absenteeism skyrocketed. The move to remote learning disproportionately affected low-income Chicago students, many of whom did not have reliable access to the internet.

NBC Chicago reported 110,000 school-age children in Chicago didn’t have access to broadband in fall 2020, according to U.S. Census data.

During the pandemic, many Chicago families opted to send their children to private and charter schools, which were able to reopen under their own local safety protocols rather district mandates.

But for many low-income Chicago students, many of whom may have struggled to access remote learning during CTU’s in-person closures, finances meant private school was not an option.

That’s where the Invest in Kids scholarship program came in, allowing them to attend private schools. But now lawmakers have ignored the needs of nearly 10,000 disadvantaged students and killed the program at the urging of teachers unions, who put significant dollars behind their attack on the program.

Teachers unions invested over $21.5 million in sitting state lawmakers between 2010 and the end of October 2023. Nearly $1.5 million of that was in the five months leading up to the General Assembly’s fall session when lawmakers let the program die, Illinois State Board of Elections records show.

The majority of the scholarships had gone to Black and Hispanic students. The household income of most of the families who received scholarships in the 2022-2023 school year was $49,025 or less for a family of four.

But union bosses proved they were more concerned with protecting their monopoly on education than in supporting the needs of Illinois’ students. If they really prioritized students’ interests, they would support programs which expand educational options for low-income students, even if that means some students choose private schools.

Despite opposing school choice for other families, Chicago Teachers Union president Stacy Davis Gates and Illinois Education Association chief lobbyist Sean Denney chose private schools for their own children. They made that choice because they can afford to do so, yet aggressively fought the ability of impoverished families to do the same through Invest in Kids.

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