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Report: Education Critical to Improve Well-Being for Ore. Kids

While the state is doing better on child well-being in many respects, Oregon ranks 43rd in the nation in education, according to a new report. (SupportPDX/Flickr)
While the state is doing better on child well-being in many respects, Oregon ranks 43rd in the nation in education, according to a new report. (SupportPDX/Flickr)
June 27, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon children are doing better by most measures, but the state appears to be slipping in the area of education, according to an annual report released today.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation assesses how kids are doing in the areas of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community.

Overall, the analysis ranks Oregon 30th in the nation.

While Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon, is proud of the gains the state has made - such as decreasing the child poverty rate - she noted education hangs like a cloud over the report.

"Overall, we're ranked 43rd for education of our children, which is deeply disturbing," Hunt lamented. "We know that's going to impact not only our kids' well-being but really, our entire state's economic well-being in the future."

The report found 25 percent of Oregon students aren't graduating from high school on time, compared with the national average of 16 percent. Hunt added the state has the sixth-largest class sizes in the nation, and believes the biggest issue is the chronic under-funding of schools.

The report also highlights the need to ensure the 2020 U.S. Census is accurate. Hunt said it will be critical in order to get the appropriate services and investments to the parts of Oregon that need them.

"If kids aren't counted, here in Oregon we could lose billions of dollars that support everything from school lunches to health care for kids, to the SNAP program, which is the food stamp program," she explained.

The census under-count of children age 5 and younger has gotten worse with every census since 1980; the count was 1 million short in 2010.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, predicted it likely won't be better in 2020. She said census outreach efforts face daunting challenges, including a lack of leadership, the first-ever digital census survey, and the potential of suppressed participation due to a controversial citizenship question.

"There's still not a permanent director, and we know that's important," Speer said. "There's the need to fund state and local outreach for the census; and especially for the under-count of children, it's important to expand the pool of trusted messengers around the census."

The full report is online at aecf.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR