Both Kansas and Missouri stayed in the middle tier of states in the new Kids Count survey released this week, but Kansas had the third-largest drop in child well-being ratings in the nation.
Overall, Kansas fell from 15th place last year to 19th. Missouri slipped from 26th to 28th.
Health scores improved for Missouri kids but slid 11 places for Kansas.
Missouri climbed three positions on economic well-being, while Kansas held steady at No. 9.
This year marks the 27th edition of the Kids Count Data Book, which ranks each state in 16 indicators of child well-being within four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. The annual report is created and published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national nonprofit.
Kansas children’s advocates blamed a weakened safety net system.
“Since 2011, Kansas has reduced early education funding and significantly weakened the state safety net. This has been negatively impacting children and families for years, but we’re only just now starting to see the consequences due to a lag in the data,” said Annie McKay, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.
Other Kansas highlights:
- From 2008 to 2014, the number of children living in high-poverty areas increased to 65,000 — or 9 percent of all kids — compared to 2 percent in 2000.
- Children in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment increased to 25 percent, with the overall state ranking dropping from sixth to 10th since last year’s rankings.
- Reading scores among fourth-graders dropped from 13th to 30th since 2015, with 65 percent of them below proficient.
- The percentage of children without health insurance improved, dropping from 8 percent to 5 percent since 2008, with the state’s ranking in this indicator improving from 23rd to 17th since last year. This reflects national trends attributed to the Affordable Care Act.
— Steve Bell is a reporter for KCUR.