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Colorado Middle Of The Road For Child Well-being

Annie E. Casey Foundation

A national report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Colorado 22nd among states in overall child well-being.

The Kids Count report looks at things like health, education, and economic standing. Sarah Hughes with the non-profit Colorado Children's Campaign says a 300% increase in children living in high-poverty areas since 2000 suggests many of the state's youngest continue to struggle.

“The reasons that kids are falling into poverty here are very complex, but they have to do with things like changing economic opportunities, declining wages coupled with the rising cost of living. Of course the recession impacted thousands of Colorado kids.”

The report shows large disparities in Colorado between kids who are in strong economic situations, and those that remain in poverty. Hughes says that can influence everything from family life to educational success.

“The factors that are contributing to the disparities are pretty complex, and Colorado has historically had pretty wide disparities. For example we have one of the largest gaps in 4th grade reading scores based on income. So we have students eligible for free and reduced priced lunch at school performing at a much lower level on student achievement tests then their peers who aren't economically disadvantaged.”

There are some bright spots in the annual report. Colorado ranks in the top 10 for overall education with a significant drop in the number of 8th graders who scored below proficient in math. Hughes says the ranking is impressive when taking into account the high number of children continuing to struggle economically across the state.

Colorado At A Turning Point

Despite the widening economic gap, Hughes says Colorado is at a turning point in terms of creating beneficial outreach programs for children.

"We have a lot of political will to support children. And I think even though our economy is still kind of struggling to recover from the recession, now is really the time to make those investments in children, and to insure that during a rough spot during their lives they’re really supported and given the tools they need to grow up and be able to compete in a global economy.”

This year the Colorado legislature passed the the Colorado Reading To Ensure Academic Development Act (READ) which strives to ensure all children in Colorado learn to read by the end of third grade, a pivotal point in their education.

And Hughes says the state has been ahead of the curve in creating a health insurance exchange system which she believes is unique and responds to the needs of Colorado's younger residents.

The Colorado Children’s campaign released the state’s national rankings in the report by topic:

  • Economic Well-being: 16
  • Education: 9
  • Health: 45
  • Family and Community: 25

The 2012 Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT Data Book with state-by-state rankings and supplemental data is available here.

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