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Arizona 5th Worst in Conditions for Kids

July 25, 2012

PHOENIX - Arizona has dropped to 46th among the states in how well its children are faring, according to the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Arizona dropped or stayed even in several poverty-related categories including the percentage of children without health insurance, living in high-poverty areas and living in households forced to spend too much of their incomes on housing.

Bruce Liggett, director of the Arizona Child Care Association, says more state support for education would help.

"That's the key. A better-educated workforce attracts job development, higher-paying wages, stimulates the economy. It all starts with education."

Arizona came in second-worst among the states in the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool. Liggett blames budget cutting by the governor and Legislature.

"It reflects directly the cuts that have been made at the state level to preschool and to child-care funding. Those cuts haven't fully taken place yet, so Arizona may go down from this ranking."

Liggett hopes the KIDS COUNT numbers are not just a one-day story, and that the state's leaders will step up and take responsibility.

"What we haven't had is leadership that says, 'You know, I'm not going to dispute these numbers. They're consistently low for Arizona. And I'm going to develop a plan to target these, and to be able to measure progress.' I think our leaders should be held accountable for changes in these numbers."

Arizona did improve in two KIDS COUNT categories: A lower teen birth rate and a lower death rate for children and teens.

KIDS COUNT ranks the states on 16 indicators of children's well-being. The top five states are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and Minnesota. States with a lower overall ranking than Arizona are Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book is online at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ