John F. Kennedy once stated, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” But according to a new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation called 2017 Kids Count Data Book, the future for Georgia’s children appears dismal.
Georgia’s overall ranking stands at 42nd; our education ranking is low at 34th; family and community rank at 41st; and economic well-being comes in at an alarming 44th. These outcomes trends must be reversed to ensure future generations have the opportunity to succeed.
Taking a deeper dive into the data reveals that 66 percent of Georgia’s fourth graders are below proficiency in reading. Studies show that students who are not reading proficiently by fourth grade tend to fall behind in other subjects. This education milestone has long been viewed as an indicator of academic success, stronger earnings potential, and expanded career opportunities later in adult life. Also, as if the above numbers were not bad enough, 20 percent of our 20-24 year olds are not attending school and not working.
Between 2011 and 2015 more than 34 percent of Georgia’s children were living in single-parent households. Meeting the everyday demands of parenthood is tough for single parents, who often work multiple jobs to make ends meet and fill both roles of mom and dad. Research shows that having a two-parent home spreads the workload and allows both parents to share the responsibilities of providing for the family and creates more quality family time.
On the economic side of things, more than 24 percent of Georgia’s children live in poverty. While parents often make countless sacrifices for their children, those living in poverty are not able to provide as much as they might like for their children. In addition, children who grow up in poverty have a higher chance of developing risky health-related behaviors and often have lower academic outcomes.
At GCO, we’re fighting for school choice to ensure children have access to options now, promoting reforms and programs that ensure the unemployed have access to jobs, and training couples on how to form and sustain healthy families. All of these things, when working well together, can significantly change how our children are doing by all measures.