In the midst of Illinois's historic budget stalemate, funding for education and much else remains in dispute. Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislature haven't been able to agree on major priorities, even as Chicago schools go broke and the Chicago Teachers Union looks more likely to strike every day.
A fundamental issue in these disputes is whether to keep spending money on present priorities, practices, and programs or to instead seize the opportunity to make major reforms.
One set of reforms that belongs on the table is Illinois's shameful neglect of its high-ability students, especially those from poor and minority backgrounds.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), just 2 percent of Prairie State 8th graders who are eligible for subsidized lunches reached the Advanced level in math in 2015 (NAEP's designation for high scorers).
The racial gaps are even worse. Not even one percent of black students reached NAEP's highest level, and just 3 percent of Hispanic youngsters did. Nine percent of white students got there—not great, but ten times the ratio for African-Americans.
A major reason for this lamentable performance is Illinois's inattention to high-ability students.
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