A new reportÂ rates the well-being of Washingtonâ€™s kids as just above average. Hereâ€™s why.
The Annie E. Casey Foundationâ€™s annual Kids Count Data Book rates all 50 U.S. states on a multitude of factors, and uses them to calculate four main indicators: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Washington places 19thÂ overall â€“ the best among states on the Pacific coast, which is (kind of) an accomplishment. Northeastern states dominate the top ten, with six of the top ten states hailing from the original New England colonies (plus Vermont). The states rounding out the bottom of the order were primarily southern and southwestern states.
Washington does very well in health rankings, at sixth overall. As of 2011, only 6% of children in Washington lack health insurance, only 7% of teens used alcohol or drugs, and only 21 per 100,000 children or teens die. The only measure in that category to worsen was the percentage of low birthweight babies, which rose to 6.3% in 2010. The downside? In last yearâ€™s Data Book, Washington state ranked fourth in overall the health measure.
Our stateâ€™s worst category for kids is economic well-being. From 2005-2011, Washingtonâ€™s child poverty rate increased from 15% to 18%, for a total of almost 300,000 children. Likewise, between 2008-2011 the rate of children whose parents lack secure employment rose from 26% to 33% â€“ thatâ€™s over half a million kids! While these numbers were in large part a function of the recession, Washingtonâ€™s overall economic ranking stayed the same from 2012 to 2013.
There is some modestly good news on the education front. In spite of Washingtonâ€™s decade-long failure to adequately fund K-12 education, from 2012-13, Washington moved up one place in that area â€“ from 26thÂ to 25th. The most recent numbers show relative improvements in preschool attendance, eighth grade math proficiency, and on-time graduation rates.
While these improvements should be celebrated, we have long way to go. Washington state needs major investments in K-12 education to improve the well-being of our state children and ensure they are well-prepared to meet future challenges.
Originally published at Washington Policy Watch