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Good news and bad in 2013 Kids Count

During the current school year 70 percent of all Colorado kindergartners are enrolled in full-day programs – an 89 percent increase since 2007-2008.

That is among the good news in the 2013 KIDS COUNT report published by the Colorado Children’s campaign, a report that otherwise continues to document a rise in childhood poverty in the state.

As for full-day kindergarten, the reports makes clear that it’s districts and parents picking up the tab since the state of Colorado only pays for half-day kindergarten.

The KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report is part of the national KIDS COUNT project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This is the 20th anniversary of the Colorado report.

Report highlights

The 2013 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! shows the state still has one of the fastest growing rates of child poverty, something that’s been happening since 2000. The percent of children living in poverty increased from 17 to 18 percent from 2010 to 2011, which equates to an additional 6,000 children, up from 10 percent in 2000.

Colorado’s overall percentage of children living in poverty remains below the national average of 20 percent. The report also showed Colorado’s child population continues to grow.

“More than 1.2 million children call Colorado home, and that number is growing,” said Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “KIDS COUNT data make it clear the quality of this state as a home varies widely. There are significant and growing gaps between children who are doing well and those who are struggling that are consistently influenced by family income, race, gender, community and neighborhood.”

Other key findings, related to education, include:

  • The cost of childcare in Colorado remains high compared to other states. In 2011, Colorado ranked as the fourth least affordable state for infant care in a center and the sixth least affordable state for center-based care for a 4-year-old, relative to state median income.
  • In 2012, the percent of Colorado fourth-graders who scored proficient or above on the state’s standardized tests increased to 67 percent, up from 65 percent in 2011. But there are wide achievement gaps in fourth-grade reading scores between children of color and their peers. Only about half of all Hispanic and black students scored proficient, compared to about three-quarters of non-Hispanic white students.
  • In 2012, Colorado’s graduation rate continued to improve, rising from 73.9 percent in 2011 to 75.4 percent in 2012.

The report found that while poverty increased over the past decade and during the most recent period, there were also indications that efforts to improve health, education and family economic security are working.

Watney cited a declining number of uninsured children to “modest improvements in education outcomes” as evidence that “statewide policies are improving kids’ lives.”

“Efforts like expanding the CHP+ child health coverage program and creating statewide education standards are paying off, and we are pleased that investments in early reading and other important programs are part of this administration’s ongoing commitments.”

Dougco gets top child wellbeing score

For the second year, the report includes a Child Wellbeing Index that provides a picture of how children are faring in Colorado’s 25 largest counties by using 12 indicators to assess health, education and family and community support.

Douglas County again topped the list of Colorado counties with the best child wellbeing outcomes, while Denver ranked at the bottom of the the 25 counties included in the rankings.

“Where a child lives has significant implications on whether she can access health care, quality education and enjoy a safe neighborhood,” Watney said.

This year’s report also highlights examples of community efforts to address challenges in their areas, such as a mobile preschool in Garfield County to a student-led bullying prevention program in Aurora.

2013 Kids Count

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