Mary Jo Pitzl, The Republic | azcentral.com
Arizona continues to rank near the bottom nationally in key indicators of child well-being, according to a report released today.
The good news is the percent of Arizona teens who say they abused drugs or alcohol has plummeted compared to other states, and Arizona has improved its national ranking for the share of kids ages 16-19 not going to school and not working, rising five places to 40th among the 50 states.
But the overall rankings in the annual Kids Count databook, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, show Arizona stuck at 46th nationally, the same spot it held in last year’s report.
The low ranking is influenced heavily by poverty, with the state maintaining ranking 48th in the percentage of kids living in high-poverty areas as well as children without health insurance.
The report notes 12 percent of Arizona’s kids have no health insurance, compared to 7 percent nationally. Arizona is the only state without a Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal program designed for kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid and who do not have private insurance. The program requires states to match the federal dollars.
Pre-school is another area where Arizona ranks low, at 48th nationally. But the state Department of Education is distributing a $20 million federal grant to extend pre-school to 21 areas across the state.
The money should fund 57 programs for children from impoverished areas in Maricopa, Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties, said Terry Doolan, early-childhood education director at the Department of Education.