AP file PHOTO
Students eat lunch at Sharon Elementary School in Sharon. Vermont has ranked second in the country in an annual report of kids’ well-being.
MONTPELIER — Improvements in children’s health and education have helped Vermont rank second in the country in kids’ well-being, according to an annual report, but poverty continues to be a problem.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report released Monday shows Vermont improved in eight areas, including the percentage of children with health insurance and rate of teen births. But it fell slightly in economic factors, such as the percentage of children with parents who lack secure employment — to 29 percent, or 36,000 children — and the 36 percent of children who lived in households with a high housing cost burden in 2011, up from 33 percent in 2005.
Fifteen percent of Vermont’s children lived in poverty in 2011, an amount unchanged from 2005 to 2011.
“This report provides a valuable tool for looking at our state’s progress over time and in comparison with the rest of the nation,” said Sarah Teel, research associate at Voices for Vermont’s Children. “But it is important to recognize where the bar needs to be set, which is that every child has the opportunity to thrive — to grow up healthy, safe and economically secure. We are clearly still far from that goal. There is no acceptable level of child poverty.”
New Hampshire ranked first followed by Vermont and Massachusetts. Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico were at the bottom.
Overall, Vermont ranked third in the country in education and family and community and fourth in health. The state had improved in the percentages of fourth-graders who were proficient in reading and the percentage of eighth-graders proficient in math between 2005 and 2011. And the state saw a drop in the percentage of students who did graduate on time, from 18 percent in 2005-2006 school year to 9 percent in 2009-2010, compared to 22 percent nationwide.
In children’s health, just 2 percent of Vermont kids lacked insurance compared to 7 percent nationally. In the family and community measurement, 32 percent of Vermont children lived in single-parent households in 2011 while the rate of teen births dropped slightly to 18 per 1,000 births, compared to 34 per 1,000 nationally.
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