Kids Count director pleased with upward movement of ranking

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Kids Count director pleased with upward movement of ranking
By Jeff Jenkins, MetroNews

The interim executive director of West Virginia Kids Count believes the state can continue to move up the list of children’s well-being in the years ahead if the current momentum continues.

The latest Kids Count Data Book has West Virginia at 39 out of 50 states. The Mountain State is ranked third overall in the category of children covered by health insurance, which is probably the main reason the overall ranking is up four spots from last year, interim director Laura Gandee said.

“They’re better able to develop at their normal milestones. They do better at school and ultimately a child’s health effects how they perform as an adult. So it’s critical,” Gandee said.

West Virginia remains among the lowest ranked states in child poverty, education and child and teen death rates. WV Kids Count is promoting its Race2Great campaign in hopes of improving those specific areas and overall ranking, Gandee said.

“We want a (state) Earned Income Tax Credit for working families. We also want high-quality preschool for three-year-olds. An even more significance increase in the tobacco tax and statewide full implementation of the state’s health and sex education curriculum,” Gandee said.

The data book also shows one in four children in West Virginia lives in poverty, a stagnant education ranking and a decreasing teen birth rate.

But overall things are headed in the right direction, according to Gandee.

“We’ve improved four places and we’ve improved in most indicators,” she said