By Lindsay Sax
June 21, 2016
When it comes to the well-being of its children, Kansas took a tumble down the national rankings.
“What’s evident is that policy choices of the post-recession years have eroded the well-being of children and families in Kansas,” said Annie McKay, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. “Kansas struggles to keep afloat while other states swim laps around us.”
On Tuesday, Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 27th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book. It ranks how each state takes care of its children, based on factors like economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
In the 2016 edition, Kansas fell to 19th place overall. That’s after coming in at 15th last year. That’s the 3rd biggest drop in overall rankings on the list.
The Sunflower State also lost ground in two other categories: overall health and education. After ranking 13th in health in 2015, Kansas 24th place rank barely puts it in the top half on the country this year. In education, the state dropped eight slots from 12th to 20th.
Kansas managed to stand pat in the two other measures, ranking 9th and 24th in economic well-being and family and community, respectively.
According to the Data Book, 65 percent of Kansas fourth graders scored below proficient in reading, dropping Kansas from 13th overall to 30th nationally.
“Unfortunately, instead of re-investing in important programs like early childhood education and expanding access to the safety net for Kansas’ most vulnerable kids, policy makers weakened the safety net, repeatedly cut or swept funding for the Children’s Initiatives Fund, and diminished the state revenue stream, making Kansas families even more vulnerable and economically fragile,” McKay said. “Kansas’ overall decline is a direct reflection of those choices.”
The number of children living in high poverty areas has also increased. From 2008 to 2014, the study says 65,000 or nine percent, of all Kansas children lived in high poverty areas. That’s compared to two percent in 2000.
The number of children living with a parent without full-time, year-round employment increased to 25 percent, dropping Kansas from 6th and 10th overall.
Kansas did make strides when it comes to children covered by health insurance. Since 2008, the number of children not covered by health insurance dropped from eight percent to five percent. The increase in covered children improved Kansas’ rating from 23rd to 17th.