Kids Count report: America's children are advancing despite the economy
The widely-watched Kids Count annual survey on the state of America's children shows gains in health and education despite the poor economy. But advocates say raised poverty rates merit more attention from lawmakers.
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The improved indicators are encouraging, but they are offset by the sheer number of children still struggling with poverty, unstable families, and dead-end educational experiences, some advocates say.Skip to next paragraph
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Nationally, nearly 16 million children – 22 percent – lived in poor families in 2010, up 2.4 million from 2009. And 985,000 students did not complete high school on time in 2008-09.
“This is a very unforgiving economy. For a million students to be dropping out a year is not something to cheer about,” says Maria Ferguson, executive director of the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. “The economic impact of not having a high school diploma is so deadly,” she says.
The center’s reports have shown that federal stimulus funding for education did help blunt some of the effects of the economic downturn, but that was a one-time infusion of cash, and states are still struggling.
One ray of hope, Ms. Ferguson says, is that the move toward common state standards and assessments could create economies of scale so that states can be more effective while reining in budgets.
Another disturbing indicator in the report, Ferguson and others say, is the continued educational gap between racial groups, which largely correlates with higher rates of poverty for African-Americans and Latinos.
While 58 percent of white fourth-graders had yet to achieve reading proficiency in 2011, more than 80 percent of their Latino, African-American, and American Indian classmates lagged in this area, the report says.
The report offers state-by-state breakdowns of its indicators. The top five states overall: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and Minnesota. The bottom five: Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi.
Twenty-two percent of children living in poverty is “a national crisis,” Mr. Lesley says.
“In the United Kingdom they are having a national debate … about what to do about child poverty…. In the US, neither party is talking about it,” he says. “The effect of that on our future is profound.”