Jessie Wagoner
October 31, 2016

When it comes to early childhood education, children in Lyon County fare better than children throughout other parts of the state according to data recently released by Kansas Action for Children.

Kansas Action for Children released the 2016 Kansas KIDS COUNT report earlier this week. The report provides an annual snapshot of how Kansas children are doing statewide and how they compare on a county-by-county basis across more than 20 indicators of health, education and economic success.

Children in Lyon County have access to early childhood education at a higher rate than the state average. There are 57 Head Start slots available per 100 children in Lyon County versus only 43 statewide. Seventy-two percent of elementary schools in Lyon County offer pre-kindergarten or 4-year-old at-risk programs while the state average is only 48 percent.

The report indicates neighboring Chase County children have no access to Early Head Start, Head Start or pre-kindergarten. Chase County does offer full-day kindergarten to students.

Health is another area of strength for Lyon County children. Lyon County boasts an 86-percent immunization rate and an infant mortality rate well under the state level. The one weakness is regarding health insurance. Almost 8 percent of Lyon County children are uninsured in comparison to a statewide average of 5 percent.

“Thanks to initiatives like the Kansas Infant Mortality Review Program and the Affordable Care Act, we saw key improvements,” KAC President and CEO Annie McKay said. “At the same time Kansas has an immediate policy opportunity that would have even greater gains for Kansas kids. We could lead the nation in healthcare coverage for little kids, but it starts by extending coverage to their parents through expanding access to KanCare.”

Lyon County is performing well when it comes to education and health indicators for children, but economic indicators for child well-being tell another story. Twenty-one percent of children living in Lyon County are living below 100-percent poverty compared to a state average of 17 percent. Almost 60 percent of Lyon County students qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Median household income for Lyon County is $43,038 — almost $10,000 less than the state average. Even in comparison to peer counties Lyon County falls behind, with peers having median household incomes of $48,508.

McKay said efforts to increase the health of infants in Kansas have been successful — mortality rates have decreased, prenatal care has increased and the number of low birth weight babies has decreased. Now it is time to extend those efforts to improve health indicators throughout a child’s lifetime.

“Over and over, data demonstrates what we’re capable of as a state when we put our minds to it, and this year’s release is no exception,” she said. “Improvements in key health indicators reflect concentrated work across the state by stakeholders to tackle previously troubling trends. If we would devote the same time and attention after the first year of life, we could see the same kind of results in the other areas reflected in the annual release.”

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