HILLSBORO FREE PRESS: Kids Count report shows benefits of early education in Marion County

By Joy Mark
November 16, 2016

Marion County has several indicators of children’s wellness in health and education of which to be proud, according to the annual release of Annie E. Casey Foundation data analyzed by Kansas Action for Children.

• Eighty-seven percent of children entering kindergarten in the county have been appropriately immunized during their first three years, and this rate has been rising on an average of 10 percent each year for the past five years.

• All county elementary schools offer full-day and everyday kindergarten, and Head Start positions are available for all children below 100 percent of poverty in the county.

• More than 92 percent of ninth graders enrolled in the 2011-12 school year graduated in 2015.

Credit goes to parents for protecting their children’s health with regular, timely immunizations and to the five county school districts for keeping commitment to early childhood education as a high priority.

Thanks also to the Kan­sas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund for the award of an Early Childhood Block Grant to Families and Com­munities Together, which supports early childhood education programs for children at risk such as preschool scholarships, social-emotional support, and childcare-provider development.

This dedication is particular important in the face of the economic picture for the county. According to current data, of the 2,866 children below the age of 18 living here, 425 are below 100 percent of poverty, which, for a family of four, is an annual gross income of $24,300.

Nearly 40 percent of children enrolled in public school received free or reduced-price meals. One in 10 children are born to mothers without a high school diploma. In the state of Kan­sas, one in four children live in a home where no parent has a job.

On a good note, while poverty levels remain relatively level—though above pre-recession levels—the number of children enrolled in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has increased, improving health and making it easier to get immunizations.

Looking for assistance or an opportunity to help? Con­tact the services below:

• Marion County Resource Center & Food Bank, 1220 E. Main, Marion, open Mondays, 9 a.m. to noon, and Thursdays, 4:30-7 p.m.: Gene Winkler, geno@eaglecom.net or 620-382-7111 cell.

• Circles of Marion County, poverty alleviation assistance through education and social connection: Mark Rogers, worozo@outlook.com, 620-877-0899.

• Marion County Health Department, health and safety services: 504 S. Roose­velt, Marion, (620) 382-2550.

• Families and Communities Together, serving Marion County with early childhood supports, substance abuse prevention, poverty alleviation, and crisis financial assistance: fact@usd410.net or 620-947-3184 x1011.

• Kansas Action for Children’s annual Kansas Kids Count report measures county-by-county how kids are doing across more than 20 indicators of health, education and economic success. Kids Count data is available for every Kansas county. To download your county’s fact sheet or the statewide fact sheet, visit kac.org/kidscount.

To see how Kansas as a whole compares to other states, visit the online Kids Count Data Center: datacenter.kidscount.org/ks.

Joy Mark is executive director of Families & Communities Together Inc., Hillsboro.

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