The renowned newspaper editor, politician and author William Allen White once stated, “In education we are striving not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” That the education system in Tazewell County is successful in educating our children is one of the many reasons the county continues to grow and succeed. A solid educational system is one of the fundamental building blocks to any successful region.
Tazewell County currently has 18 public school districts with more than 20,100 students, as well as four state-recognized private schools with 855 students and other private schools that choose to remain independent from state control and regulation. The Regional Office of Education also offers an alternative school for those “at risk” students who may be expelled from school without this option.
The good news for taxpayers is they are receiving a good return for their taxes. The average per-pupil spending for all students in Illinois is $12,288, while the average in Tazewell County is $9,283—about 25 percent less than the state average. There is wide variation within Tazewell County, with spending among districts ranging from a low of $7,075 at one elementary school to a high of $14,354 in one high school district.
And what do taxpayers and parents get for their investment? Working together as a team, parents, students and their dedicated teachers produce students who are prepared for college or their chosen vocation. Additionally, many Tazewell schools and districts have won statewide awards for quality or have been ranked among the top schools in Illinois. This becomes so important in today’s environment as state education dollars continue to be cut and districts are asked to do more with fewer resources.
After high school, Tazewell County residents have the main campus for Illinois Central College in East Peoria. This high-quality community college educates thousands of students from the 10-county region it supports. Each fall and spring semester, ICC offers 2,300 classes from its facilities in East Peoria, Pekin and Peoria. Online options are also available. One thing I find interesting about ICC is that the average age of the student population is 25, which demonstrates that many people are continuing their education long after high school is over. Job retraining, skills development and preparation for a four-year degree are just a few of the motivations to continue one’s education.
Why is a strong educational system so vital to the success of Tazewell County? When parents move to central Illinois, the quality of area schools is one of the primary factors in selecting where to live. Caterpillar recently elected to continue making this region its home because of school districts like those in Tazewell that can produce highly-educated, employable individuals. Economic development is also contingent on having an educated workforce and is critical to the future of our entire region.
Education is an investment that produces countless dividends for the future. It has been one of the fundamental reasons Tazewell County continues to grow and prosper. Helping prepare our children for the future with a solid education based on good character is one way we can help them “make a life, not just a living.” iBi