In the 30th Kids Count Data Book analysis, Louisiana ranks 49th in its overall education score, but the report notes that despite losing nearly 100,000 children since 1990, the Pelican State made headway in children’s health, education and economic security.
The data Book, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is the most comprehensive annual report on child well-being in the U.S.
Outcomes for children in Louisiana have improved since 1990 in 12 of the 16 indicators the report tracks, including the number of children living in poverty (down 10 percent), teen birth rate (down 61 percent) and young children not attending preschool (down 33 percent).
“The report shows dramatic gains in 4th grade reading and high school graduation, gains that we built on even more this year with record-breaking graduation outcomes,” Sydni Dunn, spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Education, told The Center Square. “We have a long way to go but we have made a lot of progress.”
The department is currently hosting 6,500 educators for three days of professional development at its annual Teacher Leader Summit in New Orleans.
"Louisiana has a longstanding commitment to raising the bar, and as a result, more students than ever before are graduating in four years, earning college and career credentials, achieving eligibility for TOPS scholarships, and pursuing post-secondary education and training," State Superintendent John White said.
The Data Book ranks states by how well they perform across 16 indicators within four key areas: health, education, economic well-being and family and community.
Louisiana received its highest ranking in the health category of 42nd partially because of its success in connecting 97 percent of children to health insurance and maintaining low rates of drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers, the authors of the report note.
While Louisiana ranked 48th in education, it ranked 8th for the number of 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool at 52 percent.
Louisiana ranked the worst in economic wel-lbeing (50th), with 28 percent of its children living in poverty. The state’s child poverty rate was higher in 2017 than it was in 2010, and remains the highest in the nation.
It fared slightly better at 48th in the family and community category, with 13 percent of its children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma – a 57 percent decrease over three decades.
“Children whose parents have at least a high school diploma tend to have better outcomes on a wide range of measures, from reading proficiency to economic well-being, making this a positive sign for the state’s future,” the report states.
The report notes that child population in the U.S. grew nationally and in the South – but not in Louisiana, whose child population decreased by 8 percent.
“Louisiana’s children represent 1,108,403 unique opportunities to create a stronger, more vibrant state,” said Dr. Anthony Recasner, CEO of Agenda for Children. “Louisiana’s child population has shrunk by nearly 100,000 children since 1990, while our neighbors in Texas saw their child population increase by more than 2.4 million children. If we want our state to grow and thrive, we need to invest in policies and programs that will give children a strong foundation and attract new families to our state.”
The report also notes that the 2010 census didn’t include about 12,000 children in Louisiana, costing the state more than $16 million annually in lost funding from five federal programs. Louisiana has a “high rate of young children who live in ‘hard-to-count’ communities (36 percent),” the report states.