Kids Count Ranks Iowa 7th in the Nation

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa-- A growing number of Iowa's children are living in poverty, yet, against those odds, they are at the head of the class nationally. The Annie Casey Foundation ranks states based on several criteria. The organization measures factors such as percentage of children in poverty and high school students who don't graduate on time.

Overall, the report places our state as the seventh-best to raise a child. Mike Mitchell, Regional Vice President of Four Oaks, a non-profit in Cedar Rapids that works with at risk children says it's largely because schools, communities, and social service agencies in the state are getting better at working together.

"We're not closed off from one another and can really support one another to take a holistic perspective in helping solve social problems and ultimately for the betterment of kids, " said Mitchell.

But Iowa still has room to improve, especially when it comes to economic well-being, there Iowa saw negative movement from previous years. The percentage of children in poverty went from 14-percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2011. While nearly one-fourth of Iowa children have parents who lack secure employment.

There were also slight increases in the percentage of children living with high housing costs and teens who weren't in school, or working. Despite the worsening of these four factors, the organization still ranked our state 5th-best when it comes to economic well-being.

Mitchell says factors outside the classroom can have a major impact on a child's performance inside the classroom.

"When you have to worry about whether the lights are going to be on, whether there's going to be heat in the winter, whether it's going to be cool in the summer, when you have to worry if your neighbor is friend or foe, those are things kids carry with them.Not just when they're kids in school, but stick with them through their lives," said Mitchell.

Iowa's numbers showed more improvement when it comes to education. The percentage of children not attending preschool declined, while there was no change in the percentage of fourth graders who lacked reading proficiency. Students also held steady when it comes to eighth grade math ability. While there was a small decrease in the percentage of high school students who didn't graduate on-time.
Overall, the Annie Casey Foundation placed Iowa 15th for its education rankings.

To read the full report click here
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