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Report Shows Wide Disparities in Opportunities for PA Kids

A new report says greater investment in high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs would help ensure children's later school success. (26057/Pixabay)
A new report says greater investment in high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs would help ensure children's later school success. (26057/Pixabay)
October 25, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. - There are wide and persistent disparities in opportunities for African-American and Latino children in Pennsylvania, according to a new report.

The 2017 "Race for Results" report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that white children in Pennsylvania ranked 20th in an index by state of key indicators for kids' education, health and family stability, but African-American children ranked 32nd and Latino children 48th.

Joan Benso, president and chief executive of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, pointed to what she called the state's broken school-funding system as a major factor in the differences.

"The disparities for children that are English-language learners and often low-income, as well as the disparities of children who are African-American and tend to be concentrated in communities of poverty, is that much more egregious than it is for white children statewide," she said.

Among the report's findings are that only 18 percent of Latino and 17 percent of African-American fourth-graders in Pennsylvania scored at or above proficiency in reading.

This year's report also includes data on children of immigrants. Nationally, said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, one in four of these children lives below the federal poverty line.

"Only 47 percent of kids in immigrant families live in households with sufficient income," she said, "even though the majority of immigrant parents are in the workforce."

The report said there are almost 320,000 children in immigrant families in Pennsylvania.

Child health is another factor and, as Benso pointed out, that includes prenatal care for mothers. She noted that a higher percentage of African-American infants in Pennsylvania are born at low birth weights, which can lead to developmental delays.

"We're hopeful that lawmakers will look at this data on kids of color and low birthweight and say we should do more to invest in programs that help us ensure that more children are born at a healthy weight, so they're on a strong foothold to success," she said.

If Pennsylvania is to prosper, Benso said, all children must have a fair chance to succeed.

The report is online at aecf.org/raceforresults.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA