A new report shows Utah’s children are not doing as well as they used to compared to the rest of the country. The annual Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book measuring child well-being has just been released, and Utah continues to slip in the national rankings.
The Kids Count report measures the economic well-being, education, and health of children across the country. Back in 2009, Utah ranked number 3 in the nation, but has been slipping every year since then. In the latest report, Utah was at number 14. Karen Crompton is President of Voices for Utah Children, and she says Utah is not making the improvements that other states have made.
“Utah has received a lot of national attention being number one for business, number one for economic growth opportunity, but we aren’t number one for our kids, Crompton says. “I guess the rankings are something we haven’t talked about in the past, but when our ranking keeps slipping year to year, I think it says something about the fact that we’re not doing enough for our kids.”
Over the past few years, Utah’s child poverty rate has worsened, there are more low birth weight babies, and there are more fourth graders who can’t read. But Crompton says the situation is not so bad that it can’t be improved.
“There are two things that would be really important for kids and make significant improvements in their lives and life chances,” Crompton says. “One would be sure that we get all children health coverage. And the other piece would be being sure that they get to school ready to learn, and for a lot of kids that means having an opportunity to attend pre-school.”
Crompton says universal preschool across the state is not realistic, but targeted programs for low-income children could have a significant impact. As for health insurance, Utah ranks last in the country in terms of eligible young people enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Crompton recommends the state actively encourage enrollment for eligible children, and that the state expand Medicaid to cover more parents.