Maybe people are tired of hearing about another report that shows, as former Gov. Buddy Roemer used to say, that Louisiana is on the top of the list of things that are bad and on the bottom of the lists of things that are good.
And as the Kids Count report comes out every year, there is a certain sameness to the sinking feeling that we in Louisiana must experience.
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At 49th among the states, Louisiana’s ranking is unchanged in the report that measures 16 indicators of childhood well-being, from the rate of low birthweights and teen pregnancy to third-grade reading abilities and the prevalence of single-parent families.
For Louisiana, the good news is that some of our numbers improved.
Kids Count found that 307,000 children in the state live in poverty and 371,000 are in households where parents lack secure employment. Those numbers were lower than in the last report, but not enough to lift Louisiana’s ranking among the states.
The findings mean we’re still 50th among the states in the economic well-being of families with children.
Louisiana also dropped from 47th to 48th in education — a category that is, of course, intimately linked with good jobs and good wages. Factors in the education category include data showing high percentages of fourth-graders not proficient in reading and eighth-graders not proficient in math.
Kids Count is published every year by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private research foundation that has worked on policy initiatives to help the Bayou State.
More broadly, Kids Count’s national report noted the negative numbers produced as immigrant families move to states along the southwestern border. Typically, these families are poorer as they come into the United States.
However, many immigrants are working and contributing to the tax base, even if at lower wages. Over time, they do better, but Kids Count — as remorselessly as it does for Louisiana — comes out every year.
Strikingly, Louisiana is not a state with lots of immigrants, but it remains a state with a very large number of poorer families, of lower educational attainment and thus with less chance of good-paying jobs that can support a family.
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Our state is wrestling with these long-standing issues. While the Kids Count report is an annual event, its message should be particularly relevant to our state in an election year.
This fall, as candidates seek support, we hope they will be pushed by voters to talk about constructive and practical steps to improve the numbers from the Casey report.
Otherwise, it will be an annual downer for the generations to come in Louisiana.