Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Data ought to prompt state lawmakers to act

Adam 06/15/17
Child Uninsurance by Race & Ethnicity, Washington state, 2011-2015

A new report ought to prompt state lawmakers to further our kids’ education and economic security—starting in the earliest years.

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Washington 14th in child well-being among all 50 states. Though performing strongly in kids’ health, we’re doing relatively poorly in education and economic security. Here are our rankings across the four KIDS COUNT domains of child well-being:

  • 24th in economic well-being. Although we don’t rank highly compared to other states, our state has nevertheless seen steady improvement from previous years. The number of children living in poverty dropped to a five-year low between 2010 and 2015.
  • 28th in education. Twenty-two percent of Washington high school students did not graduate on time in 2014-2015, significantly worse than the national average of 17 percent. And 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool compared to 53 percent nationally.
  • 17th in the family and community domain. The teen birth rate fell 33 percent between 2010 and 2015, down to 18 per 1,000 women aged 15-19. Six percent of children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, more than half the national average of 14 percent.
  • Fifth in health. Between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of children without health insurance fell 50 percent, due in large part to sound public policies and investments. We are closing the coverage gap between children of color and white kids.

Our state elected officials can seize the opportunity of the second special session to write a budget that expands access to quality early learning, so kids can have a solid start in K-12. In the 2017-19 budget, lawmakers can also improve the economic well-being of tens of thousands of our state’s low-income children by fully restoring Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) income assistance.

While the reasons for child poverty are complex, one policy solution is not. Restoring TANF would mean that families have a little more money each month to meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter; it was cut in 2011 and hasn’t been restored to full funding since. In an economic recovery, we should take steps to see that everyone—especially the lowest-income households—can recover together.

In health care, federal lawmakers need to maintain the funding streams of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program on which Apple Health for Kids is based. The Affordable Care Act plus Apple Health for Kids has helped our state make tremendous progress in connecting more Black, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander children with affordable, comprehensive health coverage, as shown in the chart above by KIDS COUNT in Washington partners at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

This is progress worth protecting: a fact noted by the editorial board of the Seattle Times this week.

Additional data and the KIDS COUNT National Data Book is available at www.aecf.org/databook. Read more about our state’s advances in health coverage on Schmudget, the Budget & Policy Center’s blog. And find hundreds of indicators of child well-being at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/.