It seems like blogging best practices suggests including cute pictures whenever possible. We couldn’t agree more since our work tends to be a bit on the dry side. Today’s post involves kids, and this little guy looks like the kind who would appreciate the data we are about to present.
Healthy and educated children improve our communities, our future, and our economy. When our children thrive, our state thrives. This week, the Montana KIDS COUNT, in conjunction with the Casey Foundation, released the most recent Kids Count data – a collection of measurements of how our children doing, and whether the quality of their lives have improved or worsened compared to past years and compared to other states.
First, the good news – Montana is making strides in high school graduation rates. Since 2005-06, the percentage of students not graduating on time dropped from 18 percent to 14 percent. This compares to the national average of 19 percent. Kudos to Superintendent Denise Juneau and all the school districts participating in Graduation Matters program. It’s working.
And now the not-so-great news – Montana scored worse or about the same compared to past years on many critical measurements of economic well-being and health. Almost one in five Montana kids are living in poverty, and 30 percent of children live in households where parents lack secure employment. And while we’ve made great strides with Healthy Montana Kids to get more children covered by health insurance, there are still 11 percent of children in Montana without health insurance, compared to only 7 percent nationally.
More children are enrolled in preschool, but the percentage of children not attending preschool is still significant – 60 percent. This is an area where we’ve been quite focused and where the Governor is looking to invest state funding for quality pre-K programs across the state. It should not be underestimated how important this is for our economy – children attending pre-K programs are more likely to be prepared for kindergarten, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, and less likely to be incarcerated.
We have to ensure ALL Montana’s children are provided the quality of life, access to health care, and the education they need to succeed. It will pay dividends for our economy.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.