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Report: OK near bottom of rankings for quality of kids' healthcare, education

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024   

A report on the condition of America's children ranks Oklahoma near the bottom of the 50 states for the well-being of its kids, with particularly poor ratings for the quality of health care and education.

The annual Kids Count Data Book found three-quarters of Oklahoma fourth graders not proficient in reading, and the number of low-weight births increased significantly.

Shiloh Kantz, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the rankings do not come as a surprise, and added how children do in school is often affected by their home environment.

"Those aren't all new numbers for us, nor are they new places for us to find ourselves," Kantz acknowledged. "Looking at the findings in combination with what we know about Oklahoma, the report clearly shows us that we're not serving the health and well-being of our children and families in Oklahoma."

The report ranked Oklahoma 46th overall, with ratings of 39th in economic well-being, 49th in education, 45th in health, and 40th in family and community. The Annie E. Casey Foundation study found fewer Oklahoma kids are living in poverty or in single parent families.

Kantz noted in Oklahoma, financial hardship stands out as the common denominator, with one in six adults living below the poverty line and for kids, it's one in five.

"For every data point, there's a person who was hungry, homeless, suffering trauma, possibly in an unsafe environment," Kantz emphasized. "We as a community and as people should be collectively investing in better opportunities for all of us."

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the hardships of poverty can affect children's ability to succeed and thrive as adults.

"We continue to see disparities persist for kids of color, particularly for Black kids, for Latino kids and for Native kids," Boissiere outlined. "It's persistent across states, and it's pervasive across the decades that we've been reporting the Data Book."

The report is published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Rank­ings are based on 16 indi­ca­tors in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and community and family.

Disclosure: The Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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