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Kids Count: WV Better in Areas, But U.S. Improves More

The day after Fathers' Day, Kids Count is releasing its 30th annual Data Book. (Pezibear/Pixabay)
The day after Fathers' Day, Kids Count is releasing its 30th annual Data Book. (Pezibear/Pixabay)
June 17, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — The 30th annual Kids Count Data Book shows West Virginia making strong gains in some areas, but overall just treading water while the rest of the nation sees improvements.

In spite of dramatic reductions in teen births, the number of high school students not graduating on time, and the portion of state teens not in school and not working, the state fell to 43rd overall.

Tricia Kingery, West Virginia Kids Count executive director, said the state needs to keep a focus on child well-being, and right now that means making sure the census gets an accurate count of every child in the state.

"When every kid is not counted in rural areas such as West Virginia, it hurts the amount of resources - less funding for education, lower access to health care for children, fewer vital supports for working parents,” Kingery said. “No matter if you think it impacts you or not, it impacts the children of our state."

According to Kids Count, about a quarter of West Virginia children younger than five are in hard-to-count, easy-to-miss situations - such as very rural areas or buildings with multiple households.

Leslie Boissiere is vice president of external affairs with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the folks who compile the Kids Count Data Book. She said what they've found over three decades of crunching the numbers is that specific, well-made programs really do make a big difference in the lives of children – and, so help improve everyone's future.

"The Head Start program, as a result of this policy investment, has a significant impact on overall academic achievement, on the self esteem of kids,” Boissiere said. “Are we fully funding public education and are we doing it in a way that's equitable? Are states making health care and health insurance available to all families?"

Along with improvements in teen births and teen school and work numbers, West Virginia is seeing better scores in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. But the state's scores in those areas are still below an already low national average.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV