News Column

Texas Keeps Low Ranking in Kids' Welfare

June 24, 2013

Texas remains among the bottom 10 states when it comes to children's well-being, according to an annual ranking by a nonprofit that advocates for at-risk kids.

The state improved two places in the rankings, to 42 from 44, in the 24th annual 2013 Kids Count study, released Sunday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the study found that Texas generally improved in education and health while it stagnated in the area of family and community. Economic well-being worsened, reflected in the 1 percentage-point increase in the child poverty rate in Texas, to 27 percent in 2011, the latest number available. The national rate also rose 1 percentage point to 23 percent, but remained below Texas.

On the plus side, the state's rates of child and teen deaths fell, as did teen births. Its percentage of youngsters without health insurance also declined, from 18 percent in 2008 to 13 percent three years later.

Still, the U.S. rate of children without health insurance improved from 10 percent to 7 percent over the same period.

"Improvements in child well-being are definitely what we want to see. Unfortunately, these improvements come with some important caveats," said Frances Deviney, Texas Kids Count director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Austin.

"Our choices to decimate education funding during the 2011 state legislative session were only slightly improved with this session's modest funding increases. Unfortunately, these increases do not even get us back to pre-cut funding levels for education and still leave an IOU for health care," Deviney said in a statement.

Although there were improvements in education, Texas has a long way to go to improve its rank of 31st in the nation. According to research from the center, there is a link between increased funding for education and better outcomes for children.

The report found that 59 percent of young Texans don't have access to preschool, though that was an improvement from 61 percent previously. Some 60 percent of eighth-graders weren't proficient in math in 2011, an improvement of 9 percentage points from 2005.

The state also saw 21 percent of its high school students fail to graduate on-time in 2009-10, down from 28 percent in the 2005-2006 academic year, the report found.



Source: (c)2013 San Antonio Express-News Distributed by MCT Information Services


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