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Investing in Children Key to Righting California Economy, According to New Children Now “Report Card”

Jan 06, 2009

OAKLAND, CA—The issues weakening California children’s well-being are also undermining the economic prosperity of the state as a whole. This is one of the key findings in a new study released today by Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to giving all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.

The 2009 California Report Card: Setting the Agenda for Children shows that the current deficiencies in children’s health and education policy are leading to significant, negative outcomes for all Californians. These include increased health care costs and decreased economic output. For example:

     
  • One million children in California are expected to be without health   insurance
    It costs Californians $7,000 every time an uninsured child visits a hospital for a preventable ailment. In contrast, only 17 percent of that amount ($1,200) is needed to provide health coverage for each uninsured child.
  •  
  • One in five (109,011) high school students in California dropped out in 2007
      Every 120,000 high school dropouts costs the state approximately $46.4 billion in total economic losses.
  •  
  • 16 percent of California’s adolescents are overweight or obese
      Medical expenses attributable to obesity cost Californians $7.7 billion each year, with $1.7 billion paid by Medicaid.
  •  
  • Less than half (48%) of California’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool
      While 85 percent of brain development occurs before the age of four, less than nine percent of public investments in children’s education and development are spent on children, ages four and younger.

“Given the state’s current fiscal crisis and poor long-term economic forecast, lawmakers must clearly articulate and substantiate an investment strategy now to right the ship,” said Children Now President Ted Lempert. “By all measures, smart investments in children make the most sense and should come first. That’s also what voters have been asking for and promised for years.”

The Report Card presents the most current data and analysis available on the status of California’s children, who represent 25 percent of all Californians and 12 percent of the nation’s kids. The report also assigns letter grades to each individual issue covered, such as a C- in K-12 education, a C- in oral health and a D+ in integrating children’s services locations and administration to improve access and efficiency. The highest grade given, a B+ in after school programs, illustrates that bipartisan efforts on behalf of children are possible and can lead to significant improvements.

For the first time in its history, the Report Card also provides immediate children’s health and education policy actions, or “the children’s agenda,” that California’s leadership should pursue, such as “implement recommendations that improve access to and the use of data needed to support [an education] system of continuous improvement and learning by providing school districts, teachers and principals the information they need to make informed decisions.”

“We simply can’t afford to wait any longer to support the success of the next generation,” said Lempert. “The ongoing lack of significant progress for children is costing all of us—especially our children—too much already and will only get worse.”

Lempert added, “We are calling on the Governor and the Legislature to give children their due in 2009, and prioritize children’s health and education reform.”

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