Latest Kids Count report a mixed bag for Kentucky kids

07/22/2014 01:29 PM

The 2014 report from the national Kids Count profile shows Kentucky is making strides in important areas of health and education, though there are still some troubling statistics embedded in the data.

Terry Brooks, Director of the Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Kentucky is ranked 35th in the nation in overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s publication after accessing four key factors which include: economic well-being, education, health and family. Kentucky had ranked in the 40s for much of the last decade.

“The economic well-being for kids in Kentucky unfortunately is a negative picture. it shows not only have we declined from last year — we’ve significantly declined from several areas 25 years ago,” Brooks said (1:40). “Twenty-five years ago we would talk about that almost one in four children in Kentucky lived in poverty. Four or five years ago we began talking about one in four children live in poverty, and in fact the last couple years we’ve talked about that more than one in four children in Kentucky live in poverty.”

The report shows that there are 264,000 Kentucky children who live in poverty — something that Brooks says can impact all areas of child’s life. Brooks said until the state deals with the issue of poverty he does not think there can be any major increases in the areas of education and health.

While lawmakers have been unwilling or unable to rework the states tax structure, Brooks said some incremental changes that can improve poverty issues in the state including a state Earned Income Tax Credit (5:00).

In the area of education, the state is improving in all of the areas measured by the Casey Foundation, but two out of three 4th graders are still not proficient at reading and two out of three 8th graders are not proficient at math.

Brooks said in 1990 before the Education Reform Act that there were nine out of ten 8th graders in the state were not able to do math at a proficient level, so in the scope of time Kentucky has improved. While it’s easy to be positive Brooks said the numbers show that “something is wrong.”

“We look underneath those statistics and we know the issues of ethnicity, geography and income exacerbate that. So, the whole notion of the learning gap is very alive and well in Kentucky,” Brooks said. (11:20)

Health is the “shining star in this report,” Brooks said. Across the board Health percentages improved in areas like children without health insurance, low birth weight babies and teens who abuse drugs and alcohol.


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