Is Texas doing it for the kids?

Guest blog submitted by Jennifer Lee with the Center for Public Policy Priorities

The new national KIDS COUNT® Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reminds us how challenging it is to be a kid in Texas. Once again, Texas ranked among the ten worst states for children.

There were a few bright spots for the Lone Star State including improved math proficiency for eighth graders, and a decrease in the number of kids living in families where no parent has full-time employment. And some policy improvements in the past legislative session intended to improve the quality of pre-kindergarten are a good first step to getting children on a solid educational footing. But our state is missing too many opportunities to support our kids.

Texas' poor ranking in many measurements of child-wellbeing, from education and health care to families' economic security, threatens the next generation of Texans and the caliber of the state's workforce. We're a proud state, and we all want our children to have a bright and prosperous future, but our policies aren't supporting the development of healthy, well-educated children and economically secure families.

Over the past five years, Texas kids have experienced very slow and uneven progress in many important areas, and are generally still worse off than before the recession. A growing number of Texas children live in a high-poverty neighborhood, where there are fewer opportunities in education, and where health and safety are at risk. Notably, one in four Texas kids live in poverty, a number that has remained consistent since 2008, despite the booming economic growth the state has experienced in recent years.

Texas has improved in many categories related to children's health, but the state still has far to go.

The rate of Texas children without health insurance improved from 18 to 13 percent from 2008 to 2013. 13 percent may not sound like a big number, but it represents almost 900,000 kids, ranking Texas 2nd worst in the country for kids without health insurance. Research shows that if Texas did more to insure parents, then more kids would get insurance coverage by extension.

Texas can turn the tide, but only by adopting comprehensive policy solutions – like closing the health care Coverage Gap – that benefit children of all backgrounds and prepare them to be healthy, well-educated and financially secure. All Texas kids – regardless of race or ethnicity – should have the chance to compete and succeed in life.

Visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center for the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices. Click below to view the entire KIDS COUNT 2015 Data Book.

This article originally appeared on the Center for Public Policy Priorities blog, Better Texas Blog. To view, click here.