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New Study: Mississippi Ranks Last In Child Welfare

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Jul 2012 04:48pm | comments

Mississippi is again ranking last in a new set of data that measure the welfare of the state's children. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the annual Kids Count survey ranked Mississippi last or near the bottom in every major category.

The Kids Count data put the Mississippi last in overall child welfare, economic situation and family and community supports...and 48th in education and health measure.

Laura Speer with Kids Count says 33-percent of Mississippi kids are living in poverty.

"The child poverty rate is the indicator that has the biggest impact on child well being and child development. We know that kids who grow up in poverty, especially in deep poverty or poverty when they are young below the age of five and over the course of many years within their childhood tend to struggle in many, many ways," Speer said.

Speer says nearly half of all kids are living in single parent homes, which decreases the economic and foundational supports children get from two parent homes.

Rachel Canter with the education and child welfare advocacy group Mississippi First says the survey should push state leaders to improve public education and child welfare systems.

"We've got to be much more aggressive about how we write our policy. How we implement our education system and all sorts of other really important functions. We are holding ourselves back," Cantor said.

Law makers are aware and alarmed by the low rankings according to Senate Education Committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford.

He says legislators should focus on policies that have improved results in other states.

"The third grade reading levels. There has been a study done that shows that it is a predictor of the likelihood of a child graduating or not dropping out. If they are on a third grade reading level or higher. And right now Mississippi is at about 52%," Tollison said.

Tollison says charter school legislature, which was one of the most hotly debate education reforms this year, will likely be a topic in the 2013 legislative session.

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