PHOENIX — A decade-long review of how Arizona takes care of its children reveals that the state is failing to provide the social, educational and financial support children need.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2021 Kids Count data book analyzes the state of American families between 2010 and 2019. The report examines how Arizona and other states are investing in economic well-being, education, health care and the family and community life of children.
David Lujan, president and CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, said in Arizona that state leaders have done a poor job in terms of children’s futures.
“We’re 40th in the world for child well-being compared to the rest of the country, and really, that’s pretty much where we’ve been for the last decade or so,” Lujan said. “We’ve hovered around the last 10 states, in terms of the work we do to take care of our kids.”
The report shows that 15% of children in Arizona live in poverty, compared to 9% nationally, while one in 10 children in Arizona does not have health insurance, nearly double the national average. Figures on how children fared during the pandemic economic crash won’t be known until next year.
Lujan pointed out that Arizona’s low ranking didn’t happen by accident.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” Lujan stressed. “It’s the result of probably 20 years of disinvestment in much of the resources children need to succeed, things like our public education system, access to health care, safety net programs .”
Lujan added that data shows that in 2019, one in five high school students in Arizona did not graduate on time and about 60% of three- and four-year-olds were not enrolled in preschool. .
He argued that giving children an early start in their education is an invaluable investment.
“When we invest in early childhood education, what research and data show is that it sets children up for success for the rest of their school lives,” Lujan said.
He said there are things that make him optimistic about the future. The expanded federal child tax credit, which takes effect next month, along with other proposals to support families with children, could lift millions of children out of poverty.
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