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Ohio Shows Progress in Child Well-Being

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017   

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Child advocates in Ohio say they are excited to see improvement in an annual snapshot of child well-being.

Released Tuesday, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks the Buckeye State 24th in the nation, up from 26th last year.

Ashon McKenzie with the Children's Defense Fund Ohio says the state made gains in economic indicators, with fewer kids living in poverty and fewer parents lacking full-time employment. But, he notes, there is room for improvement.

"We still have nearly 400,000 kids who are living in high-poverty areas," he says. "That means they are vulnerable to crime, violence in their neighborhoods, likely that their schools are lacking resources and that many may be experiencing different forms of trauma."

The report notes that due to policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, fewer children overall live in poverty, more parents have jobs and more families are able to bear the cost of housing.

Another bright spot in the findings is that 96 percent of kids in Ohio now have healthcare coverage; nationally it's 95 percent, a historic high.

The Casey Foundation's Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy, contends it's a tremendous achievement that should not be jeopardized.

"The investments that we've made in things like the Affordable Care Act have made a difference," Speer says. "This is a time when policymakers are debating what to do with these programs, and having 95 percent of kids in America with health insurance coverage is a really good thing. And we need to maintain that investment for the long run."

Ohio dropped quite a bit in the area of education, ranking 27th compared to 17th last year.

McKenzie says better focus is needed on ensuring kids have access to high-quality pre-k programs, which are critical to future academic success.

"The Data Book highlights our need for broader and deeper investment in early childhood education," McKenzie adds. "We've lost ground over the last five years, our eighth graders are failing in math proficiency, which means truly, we're failing them. And we have been stagnant in the number of third- and fourth-graders who are accessing early childhood education."

The report also found 19 percent of Ohio high-school seniors are not graduating on time.


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