California has the largest child population in the country. But a new report shows when it comes to children's overall well-being, the state ranks 41st out of 50. The ranking takes into account economic well-being, health, education and family and community. California ranked in the bottom in almost every category.
Kendra Rogers is an executive director with First Five in Fresno County, an early education advocacy group. She said she isn't surprised, “They don't have unions, they don't have lobbyists and so at the end of the day, when everyone says, oh yes, we care. When you look at their decisions and the cuts that are made, the policy issues, that doesn't reflect that as a community we care about kids.”
When it comes to education, only seven states ranked worse than California. Three-quarters of the state's fourth graders are not proficient in reading and 75% of eighth graders are not proficient in math.
“Here in Fresno, less than 40% of our kids are reading at proficient or above 3rd grade and when we know so many issues are related to crime, the poor economy, that stems from a lack of education, that is a crisis,” said Rogers.
California's worst ranking was in economic well-being. The state ranked 45th in the nation. More than half of the state's children live in households that spend at least 30% of their income on housing. This leaves many families struggling to pay for food, health care and clothing, and 22% of children live in poverty.
Rogers said, “We're going to pay for these kids one way or another as a community so we can either pay on the front end and invest in them and yield a high return, or we can wait and pay in other ways which will continue to be a deficit to our community.”
Researchers say the state's steep drop in ranking is the result of the study considering more factors than previous years. Past studies focused on safety and health. This year's report added math and reading proficiency and on time graduation rates, among others.
One of the few brighter spots for California is health. The state ranked 23rd in the nation.