What is the worst state to be a kid? Sad News…New Mexico has dethroned Mississippi for the bottom spot in the latest Kids Count state rankings of children’s welfare.
The outlook for children in Mississippi has gotten just a tiny shade brighter. For the first time in 24 years, the Magnolia State is no longer last on the Annie E. Casey Foundation‘s annual ranking of states and the well-being of children and families.
Mississippi ranked 49th on the latest Kids Count report, released Monday. New Mexico took over the bottom spot.
While the two states are fairly even, Mississippi performed better in a few areas, such as the number of children not attending preschool and those whose parents lack a high school diploma, the report said.
For nearly a quarter-century, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has used a series of 16 indicators to rank the well-being of children in all 50 states. This year’s list is the first time Mississippi isn’t last on the list.
Linda Southward, director of Mississippi Kids Count, said the state isn’t where it needs to be but there are some encouraging signs.
“The evidence is clear — we help children by helping families,” Southward told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “The importance of quality child care, fully funding education opportunities for children and promoting evidence-based practices, underscored by economic development, is crucial to continued outcomes.”
50 AND COUNTING
New Mexico, meanwhile, was less sanguine about moving into the 50th spot.
“It’s certainly true that high poverty and a failed education system have plagued New Mexico for decades. That’s why we have to embrace reform, and commit to making the changes necessary to improve the well-being of our families in the short and long term,” Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, told MSN News by email.
Knell said the governor is working to significantly boost the amount of money the state earmarks for early education and to target education dollars on increasing early literacy and graduating more students with the skills they need to get a job or go to college.
“Clearly, doing things the way they’ve always been done hasn’t worked for our kids. And reform efforts must include ending the practice of setting our children up for failure by passing them on to the next grade level when they can’t read,” Knell said.
New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts ranked highest for overall child well-being, while Nevada joined Mississippi and New Mexico as lowest. Three Southwestern states— Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico — are now in the bottom five for the overall rankings.
Overall, the 2013 report paints a mixed picture of the welfare of America‘s children. As the domestic economy recovers, indicators on the well-being of kids are showing some improvement but the poverty rate, especially among those 5 and under, remains troublingly high.
“Children are our nation’s most precious resource, as well as our future leaders, employees, citizens and parents,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a news release. “The early years of their lives are a critical juncture in their development. As our economic recovery continues, we cannot lose sight of doing whatever it takes to help kids, particularly kids in low-income families, reach their full potential — and that includes laying a solid foundation from the moment they are born.”
By James Eng of MSN News