New report reveals grim quality of life for Blacks in Peoria County

The Commission was launched in July 2021 in wake of the 2020 national conversations surrounding race and prejudice.
Mayor Ali wrote in the report, this community struggles with the legacy of slavery and prejudice and is harmful not just to people of color but to all.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:40 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Mayor Rita Ali called this “the hard truth.”

New data from the City and Peoria County Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity shows the grim reality people of color face in Peoria.

25News now has more of these numbers and an idea of what’s next.

After more than a year of research, we now have a better understanding of the racial disparity in this area.

The Joint Commission was made up of over 160 members and spent the last year researching 8 key areas of life: Child & Youth Development, Economic Development, Housing, Information & Technology, Environment & Climate, the Justice system, Health & Human services, and Transportation & Mobility.

The results from the 2022 Annual Report include:

For Blacks, the life expectancy is 15 years shorter; 64 years for Blacks and 79 years for someone who is White.

The value of homes owned by blacks is lower than those owned by White people; $76,400 for Blacks versus $130,000 for White Homeowners.

66.8% of Blacks are renting compared to 23.3% of Whites who are renting.

There’s a $30,000 difference in income, where 47.4% of Black families are in need of food assistance and 40% live at or below the poverty line.

Mary Peterson, a Co-Chair of the City and Peoria County Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity says, “we need to own it as a community and then we need to work on it as a community.”

When it came to education, specifically for students enrolled in Peoria Public Schools, the data shows similar disparities: White children are more prepared for kindergarten at 35.3%. For Black kids, just 17.7% are ready to start school.

By third grade, Whites have higher math scores 33.6% versus 3.6% for Blacks. The report says having an understanding of mathematics is a strong indicator of overall academic success. Math proficiency in middle school is vital to graduating high school on time and is an indicator of success in future careers.

By 8th grade, White kids are 28% more proficient in English.

According to the report, a child’s reading proficiency at the end of third grade is considered a benchmark for success in middle school and beyond. It’s expected students are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking skills before entering high school.

The high school truancy rate for Blacks is 59.2% compared to 24.3% White and 40.9% for Hispanic.

The report says chronic truancy often leads to academic decline and failure to graduate from high school.

79% of Blacks have or are currently in the juvenile detention center here in Peoria versus 16% of White juveniles, and 5% are categorized as Other.

Juvenile arrests recorded by the Peoria Police Department in 2021 were vastly and disproportionately Black; 35 were White versus 387 Blacks.

Tim Bertschy, another Co-Chair on the Commission says, “my hope is when people see these numbers, they realize the need to address these issues and there is an effect upon them emotionally as well as intellectually.”

Peterson concludes, “our subcommittees are putting together a list of organizations they are either worked with or are familiar with that will have a vested interest in this. We need to own it as a community and then we need to work on it as a community.”

If you or your organization is interested in being a part of these conversations visit the Commission’s website here.

Data for the Latinx and Hispanic communities were slim or not available for many of the categories but is still being researched.

25News will continue to keep you informed about this report and the meetings to follow.