CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia kids are doing better than they were a quarter century ago. That’s according to the latest Kids Count Data Book that was released Tuesday. The annual report takes a look back at 25 years ago when the survey was first released and compares conditions then to now. West Virginia has improved in 13 of the 16 child well-being indicators since 1990.
“We are really (doing) the best when it comes to economic well-being, which is sort of interesting. There are fewer teens not in school and not working. There are fewer children in poverty which no one would guess,” said Margie Hale, the executive director of West Virginia Kids Count. “There are less children living in households with high housing cost burdens.”
But not everything is better. When it comes to early childhood development, West Virginia is still lagging behind despite some positive moves.
“The worst areas are surprisingly in education,” stressed Hale. “Our rank there overall is 46 and the reason for that is that there are many, many three year olds who are not attending pre-school.”
That, along with low reading proficiency, puts a dent in the progress the state has made with pre-K for four year olds. Currently 80 percent of West Virginia four year olds are enrolled in some type of pre-K program.
What does this all mean? Hale said it shows what programs put into place in the past 25 years are working and which ones aren’t.
“It shows a direct relationship between policy, what we do and how kids are doing,” stressed Hale.
She said the results give the state a blueprint for the future.
“We need to have high quality programs for our young children. Research show if you do that, the economic benefits are incredible!”
The 2014 Kids Count Data Book also compares rankings in a number of categories from 2012 and 2013. You can read that report at kidscount.org.