Number of Kentucky children living in poverty increasing


vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJuly 22, 2014 

  Kentucky children’s economic security is far worse off today than in 1990, according to the National KIDS COUNT Data Book released Tuesday.

A news release from the Frankfort-based Kentucky Youth Advocates said the percentage of children living in poverty grew by 13 percent from 1990 to 2012, and Kentucky has now had four consecutive years in which more than one in every four children lives in poverty.

Kentucky ranks 35th nationally in child well-being, 35th in Economic Well-Being, 30th in Education, 28th in Health, and 40th in Family and Community.

Kentucky’s rankings are similar to those of the past two years.

The findings show Kentucky has made strides since 1990 to improve child health. The percentage of children without health insurance was cut in half from 1990 to 2011. This is likely due to the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997 and efforts in recent years by the state to make it easier for eligible children to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP.

“I’m proud of the health gains we’ve made here in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “By connecting eligible children to Medicaid and KCHIP in recent years, our child uninsured rate continues to decline. And, with the success of kynect and expanding Medicaid to low-income adults, we are now a national model for connecting people to health coverage.”

Kentucky has also made progress in education. In school year 1990-91, more than one in four (27 percent) Kentucky students did not graduate high school on time compared to fewer than one in five students (18 percent) in school year 2011-12. Kentucky also improved over the last 25 years in the proportion of 4th graders reading proficiently at grade level and 8th graders proficient in math based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as well as the percentage of children attending preschool.

“Kentucky educators should take pride in the improvements shown in our schools, and yet we as a Commonwealth cannot accept an education system in which two of three third-graders don’t read at national proficiency and two of three eighth-graders cannot perform math at national proficiency,” said Kentucky Youth Advocates executive director Terry Brooks.

“There is a lot of good work going on in our schools, but to make the next leap ahead, we have to begin paying attention to factors like early childhood, health, and economics that transcend reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Valarie Honeycutt-Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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