By Tim Carpenter
June 21, 2016

The annual ranking of well-being among Kansas children slipped to 19th nationally amid diminished performance on health and education assessments and stagnation on economic and family measures, a child advocacy group said Tuesday.

The 27th edition of the Kids Count Data Book, which delves into more than a dozen indicators studied by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, offers a measuring stick for appraising condition of children in the states. The 2016 report draws upon trends revealed in statistics from 2008 to 2014.

Annie McKay, president of Kansas Action for Children, said Kansas’ slide from 15th in the state-by-state ranking was tied to changes in the state government’s safety net and commitment to early-childhood education.

“This has been negatively impacting children and families for years, but we’re only just now starting to see the consequences due to a lag in the data,” McKay said. “What’s evident is that policy choices of the post-recession years have eroded the well-being of children and families in Kansas, especially compared to other states that made different choices.”

Overall, Kansas ranked 15th for three consecutive years in reports featuring economic, education, health and family metrics. In the latest report, Kansas experienced the third largest reduction in state ranking.

Kansas’ economic position held steady at ninth in the nation, and the family status of Kansans remained at 24th. The education measure dropped from 12th to 20th, and the health factor plummeted from 13th to 24th.

For a second year, Minnesota ranked No. 1 in the Casey Foundation’s assessment of child well-being. Massachusetts placed second overall, with Iowa posting third. The bottom three states in the country were No. 48 Louisiana, No. 49 New Mexico and, placing lowest, Mississippi.

Here are standings of Kansas’ neighboring states: Nebraska, at ninth; Colorado, 20th; Missouri, 28th; and Oklahoma, 37th.

In the latest report, the percentage of children without health insurance improved to 5 percent from the previous year’s figure of 6 percent. Improvements also were reported in Kansas’ teen birth rate and the child and teen death rate.

The percentage of Kansas children living in poverty dropped to 18 percent in 2014 from 19 percent in 2013 — a reduction from 132,000 to 126,000 kids in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The foundation’s study indicated one-fourth of the state’s children were part of families in which no parent had full-time, year-round employment. The percentage of single-parent families increased to 31 percent.

Fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math performance also slipped, as well as timely graduation from high school.

No movement was documented in Kansas measurements of the 5 percent of teens reporting abuse of prescription drugs or alcohol, the 44 percent attaining a high school diploma, the 7 percent of low birth-weight babies and the 9 percent of children living in high-poverty areas.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.