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The Future of California's Kids on the Line in 2008, According to New Children Now Report Card, "The State of the State's Children"

Jan 03, 2008

OAKLAND, CA—Public policy decisions in 2008 are critical to determining the well-being of California’s children and the state for years to come. This is one of the key findings of a new study by Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to giving all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.

The 2008 California Report Card: The State of the State’s Children, a research report released today, highlights the generally poor health and education status of the state’s children by assigning letter grades to key individual determinants, such as a C in health insurance, a C- in K-12 education and a D+ in obesity. According to the report and its supporting documentation, these issues are undermining children’s optimal development and putting the state’s future at undue risk by dramatically increasing the financial costs and societal problems faced by future generations. The report also shows, however, that real progress on these issues can and should be made in 2008.

“The health and education of California’s kids are at a pivotal point,” said Ted Lempert, Children Now president. “Whether or not all children in the state have health insurance coverage will likely be decided by the voters in November 2008, and realizing the potential of ‘the year of education reform’ in the face of the state’s budget deficit requires that lawmakers prioritize children first in their upcoming agendas and budgets.” Lempert added, “Doing anything less would misrepresent the overwhelming will of California voters and the needs of the state.”

Children Now’s report presents the most current and comprehensive set of indicators of California children’s health and education status, including:

  • Only 47% of 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool;
  • One in three children is overweight or obese;
  • Just 65% graduate from high school on time;
  • 37% of children, ages 2-5, did not visit a dentist within the last year;
  • Fewer than half of families can afford the basics of housing, child care, food, health insurance and transportation.

California’s K-12 students continue to post slight gains in achievement test scores, but still only approximately 40% are achieving grade-level proficiency in English and math. Improvements simply aren’t happening fast enough. At the current rate, it will take 30 years before all children reach the state’s academic achievement goals.

“It’s now known that big, bold changes are the only way to improve outcomes for our children and society,” said Lempert. “But, if we lose the momentum currently behind making these changes, it will take many, many years to build it up again.” Lempert concluded, “We are looking for a strong commitment from the Governor and the Legislature to making comprehensive, systemic reforms to children’s health and education in 2008.”

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