Austin, TX (KTSM) — A new child well-being report released today by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows that child poverty continues to increase despite economic recovery, underscoring the need for Texas to make greater investments that move children and their families into the middle class.
The rate of children living in poverty has grown by 47 percent from 2000 to 2011, faster than the 18 percent growth rate of child population in Texas over the same period of time.
In El Paso County, the child poverty rate went up by 0.6 percent, while the child population went up by 11.7 percent.
The report finds that far too many kids lack the basics they need to reach their full potential. According to the new Texas KIDS COUNT report, Investing in Our Future: 2013 State of Texas Children, outcomes for kids in health, education, nutrition, and safety often hinge on whether or not they live in poverty.
“Although poverty is certainly not destiny, poverty is still arguably the most important predictor of how kids are doing,” said Frances Deviney, Texas KIDS COUNT director and senior research associate at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
The Texas KIDS COUNT report shows that 75.8 percent of public school students in El Paso County are economically disadvantaged, which can negatively impact how well they do in school. For example, 29 percent of economically disadvantaged 3rd-8th graders meet the 2013 STAAR Standards for reading, compared to 54 percent of non-economically disadvantaged kids.
“Texas’ continued underinvestment in education is steering us in the wrong direction,” Deviney said. “Texas’ investments in public education rank us 43rd in the country. With one of every 11 kids in the U.S. living in Texas, we have an enormous responsibility to make sure our future workforce, innovators, and leaders are fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
Education investments such as prekindergarten help reduce the education gaps for economically disadvantaged children.
However, after several years of growth, the report shows fewer 4 year olds in Texas are attending preschool—in the 2011-12 school year, 196,517 were enrolled, compared to 200,181 in 2010-11, likely due to automatic federal cuts to Head Start and the 2011 Texas Legislature’s preK grant cuts.
In El Paso County, 57 percent of 4 year olds (or 7451) were enrolled in prekindergarten in 2011-12.
The report also shows that proper health and nutrition are essential for children to do well in school. But, in El Paso County, 13.5 percent of kids were still uninsured in 2011 despite an overall decline in Texas. And in 2010, 33.7 percent of kids didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
For more information, including additional county-level child well-being data on more than 70 indicators, visit http://datacenter.kidscount.org .