South Carolina ranked 45th in the nation in child well-being for the second year in a row as many Palmetto State children continue to face high poverty rates and to struggle in reading and math.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count report Tuesday, ranking each state’s child well-being in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family, and community. The report draws on the most recent national, state and local child welfare statistics available.
Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi trailed South Carolina, ranking 46th through 50th, respectively. Again, the country’s southern-most states, from coast to coast, were ranked the lowest in the nation.
Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota ranked first through fifth, respectively, as best for overall child well-being.
“Most alarming are the education and poverty measures,” Children’s Trust chief executive officer Sue Williams said of the S.C. findings. “With education, families can lift themselves out of poverty and greatly reduce the stressors that can lead to child abuse and neglect.”
In South Carolina, 72 percent of fourth graders scored below proficient on a national reading test – a slight improvement from 74 percent in 2005. Sixty-nine percent of S.C. eighth graders were not proficient in math, slightly better than 70 percent in 2005.
Fifty-seven percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the state did not attend preschool, up from 55 percent in last year’s Kids Count report.
The report comes as S.C. educators get ready to comply with a new state law called Read to Succeed, meant to bring a new focus on reading in public schools.
Starting in the 2017-18 school year, third-graders who perform poorly on state literacy tests will repeat that grade so they can receive intensive reading instruction. The new law also paves the way for the expansion of the state’s free 4-year-old kindergarten program.
Poverty and the economy remain obstacles to the success of S.C. children, the report found. Fourteen percent of S.C. children live in high-poverty areas, up from 13 percent in last year’s Kids Count report and 6 percent in 2000.
Twenty-seven percent of S.C. children – 288,000 – live in poverty. That’s 9,000 fewer than last year’s report found, but still higher than in 2005, when 23 percent of S.C. children lived in poverty.
Thirty-six percent of S.C. children have parents who lacked secure employment, up from 35 percent in last year’s report and 30 percent in 2008.
Forty-three percent of S.C. children – or 437,000 – live in single-parent families, an increase of 9,000 from last year’s Kids Count report and five percentage points higher than in 2005.