Washington ranks 14th in child well-being — room to improve

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Washington state ranks 14th in a new report on child well-being. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book measures how well states are supporting children and families in four categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of Seattle-based Children’s Alliance, said the state continues to struggle with a child care crisis, in which low-income children don’t have access to high-quality care, if they have access at all.

“As an education researcher and a former school board director here in Seattle, I know that their chances of doing well in K-12 are very constrained if they don’t have access to high-quality child care in those early years,” he said.

Blanford noted that depression and anxiety numbers among children are also high in the state. Washington ranked lowest in economic well-being, at 28th, partly due to more than 500,000 children living in households with high housing costs. The state ranked highest in health, at 4th.

Like other states around the country, Washington has had struggles with education post-pandemic.

Leslie Boissiere, executive director with the Casey Foundation, said the pandemic is not solely to blame for worsening educational outcomes. She says this has been an issue for a long time.

“For example, the pandemic erased decades of increases in math scores. However, if you look over those 35 years that we’ve produced the Data Book we’ve never seen a significant percentage of children who were either proficient in fourth rade reading or basic math,” she said.

Boissiere also noted that $190 billion in federal pandemic funding, through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, could help boost achievement. She says the deadline for states to allocate this funding is Sept. 30.

“There are still tens of billions in pandemic era funding, called ESSER funding, that was allocated to schools to provide resources for things such as high dosage tutoring, and other resources that can support children that haven’t been spent,” Boissiere said.

— By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service

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