Making kids count in Kansas includes staying accountable



July 23, 2015 - 12:00 AM

The report card on how Kansas fares as a parent came out Tuesday.
We slipped in providing economic well-being, pre-K education, and family skills; but improved in health, reading and graduation rates.
The data is from the annual Kids Count Profile, gathered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which tracks public health issues across the country.
Of the 50 states, Kansas ranks 15th in its ability to provide a healthy and stimulating environment.
First, the good news:
• More teenagers are graduating from high school.
• More children have health insurance.
• Fewer teens are having children.
• Fewer teens are abusing alcohol or drugs.
Then the bad:
• Our poor are becoming poorer. In Kansas today, 19 percent of our children live in poverty, compared to 15 percent in 2008.
• We’ve become more unstable. Today 24 percent of Kansas children have parents who lack job security; up from 22 percent in 2008.
• Fewer kids are attending preschool.
• More kids are being raised in single-parent families.
The worry is that despite the country’s climb out of the 2009 recession — the national economy has finally surpassed pre-recession levels — many are not feeling the love.
In Allen County, it’s estimated 25 percent of our children live in poverty-stricken homes. An outgrowth of poverty are low levels of education and high risks of sub-standard care which puts a child’s prospects to ever escape his situation at risk.
To break this generational poverty requires a multi-pronged approach aimed at not only the children, but also their parents, and include:
• A higher minimum wage;
• Better access to early childhood education programs; and
• The push for students to graduate from high school, and the means to pursue at least some level of college. Today, the majority of jobs that pay family-supporting wages require some amount of postsecondary education, training or certification.

SUCH BENCHMARKS as the annual report help us measure progress and more importantly, help keep our focus on our children, the state’s future.
— Susan Lynn

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