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Tennessee needs to find better ways to help our kids count

Staff Report • Jul 27, 2012 at 8:39 AM

The latest KIDS COUNT report for Tennessee contains both good news and bad news. The good news is fewer teenagers in Washington County are dropping out of high school.

The bad news, however, is more children in our area are living in poverty.

As Press staff writer Nick Shepherd reported in Wednesday’s newspaper, the KIDS COUNT compiles child well-being data from all 95 counties in Tennessee and forms a composite ranking that is compared to other states. Tennessee is ranked 36th this year. On paper that looks to be an improvement over the state’s overall ranking of 39th last year, however, the evaluations changed this year so officials say the two rankings can’t be truly compared.

The ranking is based on 16 separate indicators in the categories of health, economic well-being, education and family and community. The indicators take into account everything from the number of children on free and reduced lunches to teen pregnancy rates.

Tennessee ranked 16th in health, 38th in economic well-being, 39th for family and community and 42th in education.

State and local officials need to examine these rankings closely and determine what can be done to improve the well-being of children in this state. Are existing tax dollars being spent wisely to address these problems? Are more funds needed? Are the state and local agencies responsible for addressing the needs of children doing their jobs? What can be done to help local schools meet the needs of children who are at risk?

There are programs already in place to address many of the deficiencies identified in the KIDS COUNT report. These are often provided as a collaboration of state, school and community-based services. Obviously, a review is needed of these programs to make sure they are working and that Tennessee does indeed make kids count.

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