A strong economy is best way to provide security for children

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Nebraska is doing a good job taking care of its kids, according to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book just released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Based on health, education, economic security, family and community, Nebraska is second in the nation.

The report — http://bit.ly/2MuMkJR — shows improvements in the number of Nebraska children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, living in a household with a high housing cost burden, and in the number of teens not in school and not working.

Much of that improvement might be attributed to low unemployment and a relatively good economy.

Education is a hot-button issue, with controversy over the distribution of property taxes. the majority of which goes to public education.

And, while the study saw Nebraska losing ground in the number of young children (ages 3-4) not in school, it did show us gaining in fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency and the number of high school students who graduated on time.

Some child advocates worry that children will be hurt by the count in the upcoming U.S. Census, especially if a question on citizenship is included.

Chrissy Tonkinson, research coordinator with Voices for Children in Nebraska, noted that the study warned of a potential undercount of young children, especially children of color and those from low-income and immigrant families.

“And, since many federal programs are dependent on the census data to determine funding, these are the exact children who are going to potentially be harmed most by being missed in those counts,” Tonkinson said.

While the state ranks high in overall ranking, almost 8 percent of Nebraska children live in high-poverty areas, putting the state near the middle of the pack in the Family and Community category.

Advocates are calling for getter state and local outreach to find people in hard-to-count areas, an effort needed to overcome a young-child undercount said to have missed a million kids in 2010.

The debate over how to best collect and use resources (read: taxpayer dollars) will never end, it does not have to be an either-or proposition.

Yes, we do need to make sure all children receive the services and opportunities they need and deserve.

But as the Data Book indicates, a strong economy, supported by policies that provide incentives for growth rather than penalties for success, is the best way to accomplish those goals.

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