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Kids Count Report Ranks Nevada Near Bottom For Child Well-Being

Eric Westervelt/NPR
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Students eat lunch at Robert Forbuss Elementary School in Las Vegas. The new Kids Count data book ranks Nevada dead last in education.

The annual KIDS Count, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that children in Nevada aren't doing as well as before the recession started.

In fact, Nevada ranks 47th overall, and 46th in economic well-being. Nevada comes in dead last in educational attainment.

About 23 percent of Nevada's children are currently living in poverty.

Louise Helton with Nevada KIDS Count said that number is a difficult one to see. 

“That used to be the one indicator that we were so proud of because we had such a low number of children living in poverty because we were such an affluent state,” Helton said.

The Great Recession hurt many Nevada families, but as the economy has improved and the number of children in poverty hasn't, Helton said it "spells disaster for the whole state."

Nevada isn't alone when it comes to increased numbers in childhood poverty, however. According to the report, about 1.7 million more children live in low-income families today than they did prior to the Great Recession in 2008.

Three states that top the list for children's well being include Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Helton said Nevada was behind those states for one simple reason: “They’re committing,” she said.

She went on to explain, “They are committing time, talent and treasure and they’re doing it without worrying about what’s going to happen next quarter.”

She said Nevada must have a long term view of improving the lives of children. 

Arash Ghafoori, the executive director of Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, agreed: “As a community, we really need to be sending the message that we really need to create a long term plan, rising a child is not something that happens in two years.” 

The Kids Count report ranked many Southern and Southwestern states low in terms of education. Helton said much of that had to do with education spending. 

“While there are some folks that say, ‘well you can’t just throw money at a problem and expect it to improve,’ I would like to try that just once in this state,” she said.

Both Helton and Ghafoori applauded Gov. Brian Sandoval and the legislature for their efforts to improve education, but Ghafoori said education funding is only part of the problem.

 “What we really need to understand is what other environmental factors are contributing to these statistics and start making investments in those arenas as well,” he said.

He believes families need access to programs that bring down barriers to a good education. Kids who face too many barriers simple don't go to school, leading to a large number of kids, 11 percent in Nevada, who are not in school and not working.

Helton said part of the solution to that problem is actually more preschool. 

“When you don’t invest in them upfront, then you’re going to get exactly what you’re getting at the end of the line,” she said, “We need to get up at the proper side of power curve where we have a shot”

The bright spot for the state in the annual report included the rate of teens giving birth, the infant mortality rate and the teen death rate. All dropped from last year. 

Nevada KIDS Count is the Silver State's KIDS Count project, funded by grants to break down and compare Nevada's numbers to the rest of the country.

 

Arash Ghafoori, executive director, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth

Louise Helton, communications specialist, Nevada KIDS Count

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.