Children have a greater opportunity to thrive and succeed in Massachusetts than in any other state, according to the 50-state ranking yesterday today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT project (full report available HERE). Because of our Commonwealth’s long record of making effective investments in the education and health of our children, they lead the nation in educational achievement and are less likely to be without health insurance than children in any other state.
Nonetheless, one in seven Massachusetts children lives in poverty. While that’s better than the national rate of about one in five, it’s not a number to be proud of, and we have much work to do to provide every child with a real opportunity to succeed.
“The investments we have made in our children have helped them to be better prepared to succeed than children anywhere else in America,” said Noah Berger, President of MassBudget, the Massachusetts KIDS COUNT group. “Yet, far too many of our children are still being left behind. Working together, through our government, we can make sure that all of our kids have access, from their earliest days, to the basic supports they need to thrive.”
The report highlights progress we have made in Massachusetts, but also the work still to be done:
- A nation-leading 47 percent of our fourth graders are proficient readers. Unfortunately, that means 53 percent are not. We can give those students a much greater opportunity to succeed by expanding access to high quality early education and strengthening the capacity of our schools in every community.
- Nearly all of our children — 99 percent — have access to health insurance. But health challenges remain. For example, our children are about as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as kids everywhere.
- We have one of the lowest child poverty rates in the country. At the same time, many of our families struggle to pay for basic necessities. Over one-third of our children live in households that struggle to afford housing.
Dismantling the barriers to success that are holding back too many of our children will not be easy. It requires improving our schools and the array of supports our kids need to be ready to thrive in school. It also requires strengthening our systems for supporting the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth, especially those at risk of abuse and neglect and those involved in our juvenile justice system.
“We can also pursue economic policies that help low-income families earn decent wages and have incomes that let them provide a better life for their children,” Berger said. “In the long run, expanding economic opportunity for all of our kids and families is likely the most effective way to build a strong economy that works for everyone.”