By Megan Hart
July 21, 2015

Kansas stayed at the same ranking on children’s overall well-being in the latest Kids Count report.

The state was 15th on overall child well-being looking at families’ economic well-being, community and family structure and children’s educational progress and health. The report covered data from 2013, the most recent available.

In Kansas, 19 percent of children lived in poverty in 2013, and 24 percent had a parent who didn’t have full-time, year-round employment. There was some good news, however, because only 6 percent of teenagers weren’t either in school or working.

Nationwide, about 22 percent of children lived in poverty, and 31 percent lived in a household without a parent who had full-time employment year-round. About 14 percent of children also lived in “concentrated” poverty areas, meaning 30 percent or more of the population in their census tract was in poverty.

Kansas was ninth in the country on economic well-being based on the percentage of children living in poverty; children whose parents don’t have full-time, year-round employment; children in households that pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing; and teens who are neither in school nor working.

Despite the relatively good ranking on economic measures, it was troubling that the number of children in poverty rose from 15 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2013, and that more children are living in areas of concentrated poverty, said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.

“This should be a time of growing prosperity for Kansas children and families, but instead we are mostly stagnant,” she said. “Our state’s unsustainable tax structure threw Kansas into a dangerous, perpetual budget crisis. As long as the Kansas budget is stuck in recession-era levels of investment, Kansas children will be stuck with a recession-era quality of life.”

The state was 12th in education. About 56 percent of children weren’t attending preschool; 62 percent of fourth-graders weren’t proficient in reading; 60 percent of eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math; and 11 percent of high school students didn’t graduate on time.

Kansas was 13th in children’s health. About 7 percent of babies had a low birthweight; 6 percent of children didn’t have health insurance; there were 28 deaths per 100,000 children and teenagers; and 5 percent teens admitted abusing drugs or alcohol.

Its lowest rankings were on “family and community” metrics, with 30 percent of children in homes with only one parent; 12 percent of children in families whose head of household didn’t graduate high school; 9 percent of children in areas of concentrated poverty; and 30 teen births for every 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19.

Most nationwide poverty metrics worsened in the last five years, but the number of children not proficient in math or reading improved marginally, and health metrics such as the number of children without health insurance and deaths of people younger than 20 improved. The most notable improvement was in births to teens, which fell from 40 per 1,000 teenage girls in 2008 to 26 per 1,000 in 2013. Disparities remained, however, with black, Hispanic and Native American children faring worse than the national average on most poverty and education metrics.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.