Their View: State leaders should aim for cooperation and progress
Yet again, Kentucky is near the bottom, in 42nd place, in the latest Kids Count survey, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's state-by-state assessment of children's well being.
The rankings are based on 10 key indicators, such as infant mortality, teen pregnancies, and high school dropouts. Despite Kentucky's dismal showing overall, there were a few bright spots. Its teen death rate and the number of 15- to 19-year-olds having babies each fell between 2000 and 2003, and so did its rate of infant mortality.
However, the number of Kentuckians 18 and younger, living in poverty rose to 25 percent in 2004, dropping Kentucky to 46th from 43rd in the 2000 rankings.
Meanwhile, the percentage of children living in families with no parent having secure employment rose from 34 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in the survey. And on top of that, Kentucky is one of just nine states that made no improvement in its dropout rate.
“What you don't want is a state that's not moving on dropouts,” said Terry Brooks, director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “If we don't tackle that problem, we've invented the next decade of economic problems.”
Intergenerational poverty is, unfortunately, deeply rooted in Kentucky culture. Many of the state's poorest remain firmly planted not only where they were born and reared, but also in the same circumstances.
Better-funded social programs are, of course, part of the answer.
But as Mr. Brooks said, “Santa Claus doesn't have to come to town to help poor families.” One of Kentucky's biggest problems is its failure to maximize existing resources. He lamented, for example, that there's not better cooperation and more collaboration between welfare officials and others engaged in work force development.
These latest results emphasize how poorly the state is served by the political games and wedge-issue politics that now dominate Frankfort. Voters must insist that their leaders produce agendas for progress, not more excuses for the status quo.
- The Courier-Journal, Louisville