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Tennessee Lags Behind in Childhood Rankings

Rural communities often lack the tax base and funding to support community programs, which is compounded by a lack of living wage jobs. (pudgeefeet/flickr)
Rural communities often lack the tax base and funding to support community programs, which is compounded by a lack of living wage jobs. (pudgeefeet/flickr)
June 1, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee children continue to confront poverty, infant mortality and decreased educational opportunities – particularly in the rural areas. That's according to the End of Childhood Report released this week by Save the Children – which ranks the state 40th for quality of childhood.

Mark Shriver, senior vice president, U.S. Programs & Advocacy for Save the Children, says a big factor in Tennessee is its large number of rural communities.

"Clearly there's a lot more work that needs to be done to get Tennessee at the top of the list, to make sure that the children in Tennessee are prepared not only to enter kindergarten ready to learn, but to succeed in life," says Shriver.

Internationally, the United States ranks 36th in the world – between Belarus and Russia on the list. The report recommends increased access to early childhood education and improved access to health care. The five states in the top five when it comes to quality of childhood are in the Northeast.

According to the report, 597 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, and Shriver says it's what happens after babies make it past their first year that also deserves attention.

"We really do need to do more in the Volunteer State,” says Shriver. “One of the ways of helping kids in rural Tennessee lift themselves out of poverty is to have high quality early childhood education services and that's from birth right up to and including entering kindergarten. "

Tennessee did do well when it comes to high school graduation rates, with 88 percent of students graduating on time, making the state eighth best in the nation in that category.

Stephanie Carson/Dan Heyman, Public News Service - TN