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California Drops to 22nd of 50 States in New National Study on Children’s Well-Being

Jun 12, 2008

OAKLAND, CA – California continues its slide in the national rankings of children’s well-being, according to a new report released today by Children Now and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual comparative, state-by-state KIDS COUNT Data Book illustrates the disturbing trend of California failing to meet the education and health needs of its youngest citizens. In 2004, California ranked 15th of 50 states. The state’s ranking was 19th last year and is now 22nd.

On education, the report shows California lags nine percentage points behind the national average on fourth grade reading: the national average of fourth-graders who scored at or above proficient in reading is 32% as opposed to California’s 23%. California students also fall nine percentage points below the national average on fourth-graders who are proficient in math: the national average is 39% compared to California’s 30%.

“California is well on its way to completely undermining its future by producing a next generation that can’t support its human capital needs and increasingly overburdens public costs,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now.

California also continues to shortchange children’s most basic health needs, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without access to basic health care and dental services. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s recently proposed state budget cuts only exacerbate these problems. Under the Governor’s plan, education funding will be reduced by 8.8 percent and the number of uninsured children is expected to increase by 500,000, since the cuts will affect funding for several years.

“Our state’s leaders have given a lot of lip service to the importance of our children, but have done nothing significant to support their critical needs in recent years, and it’s showing,” said Lempert. “Their current under-investment of time and resources in children’s education and health is simultaneously and substantially increasing California’s future costs and decreasing its revenues, which means it’s costing us all, regardless of moral stance.”

Overall, California’s ranking of 22nd could be inflated due a high level of uncertainty regarding the state’s high-school drop-out rate. Children Now, along with its partners in the Information Alliance for Education, is currently leading the effort to establish a comprehensive student data system. This system is needed to provide state policymakers and educators with accurate and complete information to inform decisions.

The complete report can be downloaded for free at www.aecf.org.

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