Tennessee makes strides in recent KIDS’ COUNT rankings

Published 4:27 pm Monday, June 12, 2017

Recent improvements for children and youth throughout the Volunteer State have been recognized at a nationwide level.
Improvements for children in education, health and economic well-being saw Tennessee get ranked 35th in the nation according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book release today.
“This is the best the state has ranked,” Linda O’Neal, executive director for the Tennessee Commission for Children and Youth (TCCY), told the Elizabethton Star.
According to information provided by TCCT, the Data Book ranks states in measures of child well-being across four domains and within 16 indicators.
The report provides a five-year period and year-to-year data and ranked Tennessee 26th in health, 33rd in education, 35th in economic well-being and 40th in family and community.
O’Neal added progress has been “substantial” during the Governor Bill Haslam’s administration.
“With programs in place like Tennessee Promise, the ‘Drive to 55’, Summer Reading Camps, Books First, the state has been able to reap the reward,” she said, noting improvements in 4th and 8th grade testing scores in math and reading.
According to TCCY, the fee-tuition program known as Tennessee Promise, has given a higher number of high school graduates an opportunity to pursue postsecondary education and reduced the number of individuals either not in school or working.
O’Neal also commended the effort of the state’s commitment to improve the quality of Pre-K programs. The Tennessee Department of Education recently announced grant funding for Pre-K programs statewide, which included funding for Elizabethton City and Carter County School Systems.
Another effort that the state is recognized for is the Building Strong Brains: Tennessee’s ACEs Initiative. With support from the legislature, Gov. Haslam and First Lady Chrissy Haslam, strategies are being put in place to prevent the effects of adverse childhood experiences.
Health continues to be a high mark for the state, but due to health care uncertainty, Tennessee dropped from ninth to 16th for children without health insurance.
The report indicated that the state’s failure to extend coverage to parents by upping federal Medicaid expansions leaves 62,000 children in the state without health care.
While the state received raves in the KIDS COUNT, O’Neal added that a comprehensive and updated look at the state, by a county-by-county perspective, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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