Another year, and another dismal showing by the Mountain State when it comes to the well being of its children. That’s the unfortunate conclusion of the 2012 Kids Count report, which gives the state’s education system low marks, ranking it 47th in the nation.
The news is particularly troubling given the fact that West Virginia, and the deep south counties including Mercer and McDowell, have been scoring poorly in this annual report for years. And corrective measures to address the concerns raised year after year by the Kids Count study are few and far in between. The best coordinated response we can find — and the effort is not directly related to the Kids Count study — is the ongoing Reconnecting McDowell campaign — a positive plus for McDowell County. But the Kids Count study is a snapshot in time of the well being of youngsters across the state — not just in McDowell County.
The study found that 79 percent of the state’s eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math in 2011, while 73 percent of fourth-graders weren’t proficient in reading, the Associated Press reported.
While West Virginia fared better in other child well-being categories it still lagged behind more than half of the other states.
The Mountain State was ranked 40th for economic well-being with 37 percent of children having parents without secure employment in 2010. That is in comparison to 32 percent in 2005. The report also found that 25 percent of all children in West Virginia were living in poverty in 2010.
The study also ranked West Virginia 31st for health with declines reported in the number of low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance, child and teen deaths and teens who abuse alcohol and drugs.
The Mountain State was ranked 33rd for family and community. The study found that the number of children in families where the head of the household does not have a high school diploma decreased. However, teen births and the number of children living in single-parent homes and high poverty areas increased. Many of those high poverty areas can be found right here in the deep south counties.
Margie Hale, executive director of the West Virginia Kids Count, says the state needs to focus more on early childhood education. She argues that investing in young children ages birth to 3 has the greatest positive impact. Hale makes a valid point.
Working to better the well-being of our children should be a priority. Not only for the state as a whole, but also the individual counties. Why the state, and the deep south counties such as Mercer and McDowell, continue to ignore the red flags raised by the annual Kids Count study is baffling.
Just because it is a study it doesn’t mean it should be placed on a shelve and ignored. However, given the Mountain State’s history of poor rankings in this annual study, it would appear that is in fact what is happening. And that’s a shame.