PNS Daily Newscast - September 24 

Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a twofold problem.

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Nebraska Scores 9th in New National Rankings for Child Well-Being

In Nebraska, 16,000 fewer kids live in poverty in 2016 than in 2010, and the state ranked 8th nationally in children's education. (AECF)
In Nebraska, 16,000 fewer kids live in poverty in 2016 than in 2010, and the state ranked 8th nationally in children's education. (AECF)
June 27, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. – Nebraska continues to be a great place to be a kid.

The state made the top ten best states for children's well-being in the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report ranks states in areas of health, education, economic security and family and community.

Chrissy Tonkinson, research coordinator with Voices for Children in Nebraska says the Data Book also warns that the state faces a potential under-count of its young children in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census. She notes children of color, and those from low-income and immigrant families are most at risk of being overlooked.

"And since many federal programs are dependent on the census data to determine funding, these are the exact children who are going to potentially be harmed most by being missed in these counts," Tonkinson says.

The state is ranked second nationally for economic well-being, which Tonkinson says is a result of high rates of employment, among both parents and teens. And Nebraska's 89-percent high school graduation rate helped the state's number eight ranking in education.

However, almost 8 percent of Nebraska children live in high-poverty areas, which puts the state near the middle of the pack, at 21st in the category of Family and Community.

Nationally, the report shows a rebounding economy has helped many families. It says 1.6 million fewer kids are living in poverty, more parents have jobs, and fewer families are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing.

And yet, one in five kids nationwide still lives in poverty, says Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation.

"That means about 14 million children living in households that don't have enough income, really, to get by," Speer explains. "The trends are going in the right direction, but it's still too many kids and their families who are struggling just to make ends meet."

The young-child undercount has gotten worse with every census since 1980, with 1 million kids missed in 2010.

To get a more accurate count, Speer suggests the U.S. Census Bureau fully fund state and local outreach, and ramp up efforts to reach people in hard-to-count areas.

She notes participation rates could dramatically drop if the agency adds a question about U.S. citizenship, and says it's critical that government officials guarantee respondents' information will be protected.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE