Report Ranks Arizona 46th in U.S. for Child Well-Being
PHOENIX - The overall well-being of children in Arizona ranks among the lowest in the nation, according to the latest state and national Kids Count Data Book rankings from the Children's Action Alliance and Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The research considers a child's economic well-being, health and education, as well as family and community. Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance, says what alarms her most is two-thirds of young children in Arizona are not enrolled in preschool.
"What that means is many children who are behind when they start kindergarten never catch up," says Wolfe Naimark. "Preschool offers a wonderful opportunity for kids to start kindergarten prepared and ready to succeed."
Wolfe Naimark says Arizona also ranks second-to-last in the U.S. in the enrollment of three- and four-year-old children in preschool, and notes the report shows over half of the children in 12 of Arizona's 15 counties live in low-income households.
On a more positive note, Wolfe Naimark says the research shows the rate of juveniles arrested for violent crimes dropped by nearly half between 2000 and 2013.
According to Wolfe Naimark, there is a significant amount of research showing a quality early education can play a major role in a child's long-term educational and lifetime success. She adds that Arizona's ability to compete in a growing global economy is dependent upon having an educated workforce.
"The condition of our kids today is critically important for Arizona's economy and prosperity in the future," she says. "If we're not growing and nurturing a prepared workforce, we know we're going to be behind."
While most of Arizona's gubernatorial candidates have said creating jobs and growing's Arizona's economy is their top goal, Wolfe Naimark says given the newly-released data, increasing funding for preschool and early childhood education should be a top priority.
Only Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi rank lower than Arizona in the Kids Count report.