Arizona Slips Again in Conditions for Kids
IMAGE: Children’s Action Alliance president Dana Naimark says Arizona has dropped to 47th in the nation in the KIDS COUNT assessment of children’s well-being. CREDIT: CAA
IMAGE: Children’s Action Alliance president Dana Naimark says Arizona has dropped to 47th in the nation in the KIDS COUNT assessment of children’s well-be
PHOENIX - Arizona has slipped again in the latest Kids Count Data Book rankings of children's well-being, from 46th in the nation to 47th. Children's Action Alliance president Dana Naimark said she is most concerned about Arizona's proportion of children not enrolled in pre-school - 67 percent - which puts the state next-to-last in that category for the second straight year.
"When kids don't have a quality pre-school experience, they tend to start kindergarten behind, and it's very hard to catch up," Naimark warned. "Being so low in pre-school participation makes it very hard to achieve our third-grade reading goals, our graduation rate goals, and for having a qualified, top-level work force."
Overall, the Kids Count rankings put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation show Arizona better than last year on six indicators, worse on seven, and the same on three.
Arizona ranks well above the national average for children without health insurance, 13 percent of kids versus 7 percent nationally. Naimark said that number should improve when the new federal health insurance marketplace takes effect in October.
"We know that it doesn't happen automatically, that just because something is there, people don't necessarily know about it or know how to find it or know how to enroll," she said. "So, we need to have a really concerted community effort to help connect families with this health insurance that's going to be in this new marketplace."
Naimark credited the Arizona legislature for moving toward new Common Core education standards. Combined with the proper tools for both schools and pupils, she said, the state's rankings for reading and math will improve in the long run.
"Having that as a foundation and having the $80 million increase for inflation to school districts will at least keep them from falling further behind," she predicted.
In other Kids Count indicators, Arizona was well above the national average in single-parent familes, at 40 percent versus 35 percent nationally. Arizona also has 19 percent of its children living in high-poverty areas against 12 percent nationwide.
The full KIDS COUNT report is at datacenter.kidscount.org.