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Kids Count Finds Pennsylvania Ranks 18th In Overall Childhood Well-being

Barney Moss
Nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania fourth graders are not proficient in reading, which could lead to difficulties through their entire education.

Pennsylvania’s children are faring a bit better than their counterparts nationally in education, according to a new report form the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2017 Kids Count Data Book ranks the commonwealth 18th in the U.S. for overall child well-being.

The report looks at several indicators within four categories: education, the economy, health care and family and community.

In education, 59 percent of the state’s fourth graders scored below proficient in reading between 2010 and 2015. That’s compared to 65 percent nationally.

“Children are learning how to read and mastering reading skills through the third grade, so in the fourth grade, if the assessment is suggesting you’re not performing at standard and if you’re performing poorly against your counterparts in other states, you’re pretty disadvantaged from that moment on,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the state partner of the national Kids Count Project.

The report also shows that 64 percent eighth graders were not proficient in math.

“Eight grade mathematics is sort of the baseline mathematics skills kids need to do to do higher-order math in high school,” Benso said.

Preschool, the major budgetary sticking point for Pennsylvania legislators this month, precedes all that reading and math.

Data show the rate of Pennsylvania children not enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program rose from 50 percent to 54 percent. Benso said that can be attributed to a lack of state and federal funding for programs, which leads to a lack of access.

The report also shows 96 percent of Pennsylvania children currently have health insurance. She said that could change if federal lawmakers do away with the Affordable Care Act.

“Step number one is to preserve what we’ve already built,” said Benso. “Our CHIP program, our Medicaid program, and the protections provided to children in the Affordable Care Act remain very, very important to ensure that our children remain healthy, they get the health care services they need and they develop typically with the supports they need to get to adulthood.”

Benso said her organization and others will also continue to lobby state and federal lawmakers for more funding for public education.