Illinois Civic Health Index
The NCOC has published the National Civic Health Index since 2006, and began releasing select state supplements last year in Florida, Ohio, and California. Today, with funding from the McCormick Foundation and the skill and expertise of the Freedom Project, the NCOC releases its first Illinois Civic Health Index.
Among the lowlights:
- Trust in Illinois state government is at a serious low. Only 15% of Illinoisians said they believed the state government did the right thing most of the time, compared to 27% nationally.
- Illinoisans have been cutting back on civic engagement for years, and at a faster pace that the rest of the country. In 2006, state residents were more likely to volunteer than the national average. These trends flipped to less likely in 2009, with 24.9% volunteering statewide, and 26.5% nationally. From 2003 to 2006 alone, there was a 22% reduction in Illinoisans' volunteer hours.
- In 2009, state residents cut back volunteering by 76%, higher than the 72% national average.
- Illinois Millennials (ages 15-29) also showed lower levels of engagement than their national peers. 77% reveal cutbacks since 2008 as opposed to 71% nationally.
- Not only do Illinois Millennials volunteer at a lower rate than their generational cohorts (39%), Gen-Xers (47%) and Seniors (48%), they also trail their peers nationally.
- In fact, Millennials lead the way in terms of volunteerism nationally (43% participation).
This dearth of depressing information considered, there were a few bright spots that emerged from the gloomy data. While citizens have lost faith in Springfield, they are willing to ask Washington to rectify our civic health deficit.
- 75% of Illinoisans support a policy that would require all state high school students to complete community service.
- 72% endorse a requirement for all high school students to pass a new government or civics test.
- 89% back a proposal to provide college tuition assistance for service.
The Illinois Civic Blueprint, a product of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition and the Freedom Project, provides a framework to restore of state's schools to their original purpose: to prepare young people for their roles as citizens in self-government. It marries civic education providers with school districts across the state, offering professional development for teachers and civic learning opportunities for students. It features schools across the state who are already leading the way. It puts forth a process, a "civic audit," by which school teams can assess the degree to which civics is incorporated across the curriculum based on six promising approaches, identifying deficiencies along the way and providing the resources to rectify them. Finally, it elevates exemplary institutions with "Democracy School" recognition.
The question to Illinois citizens and their elected officials is this: Are you sick and tired of the morass that has blanketed this formerly proud state on account of leaders who have continually failed and flaunted the public trust? We provide the answers today when we encounter these grim details, tomorrow when we take civic action, and next year when we flock to the polls, and I am hopeful that the next measurement of our civic health is the first indicator of a welcome and long-awaited renewal.