Kids Count report ranks Florida 31st in child well-being, with education being a strength
The state ranks 31st after three years in the 35th position. The Florida Policy Institute says outcomes are positive, but there is still work to be done.
Florida's child well-being index rose to 31st after three years ranking 35th.
The Kids Count Databook from the Annie E. Casey Foundation released Wednesday shows the state posted improvements in a number of areas, while concerns remain about others.
The report ranks each state by a variety of factors: economic, education, health, and family and community. Factors use data as early as 2012 and compare it to 2022 to find trends.
Florida ranks high in education, coming in fifth.
But when it comes to preschool and early education, child-care remains a heavy burden for many families. A key takeaway from the report said that many families "continue to face hardships and making ends meet."
Nina Perez is national director of early learning for MomsRising, a grassroots family policy organization. She spoke at a virtual meeting discussing the findings, saying the high costs of infant and childcare are blocking parents from entering the workforce.
“Child care costs exceed Florida tuition costs. So let's think about that again," Perez said. "That means that in Florida, it costs more to send your baby to child care than it does to send them to college.”
Norin Dollard is Kids Count director at the Florida Policy Institute.
She said married couples spend nearly 10 percent of their income on childcare; for single parents, it's more than 25 percent.
Dollard added that even with the high ranking for education, recent moves by state government to expand the state's voucher program raises concerns.
"We need to support our public education because it's at great risk due to fiscal diversion of funds to private schools,” she said.
The report calls for state lawmakers to increase the accountability of private schools receiving vouchers, while protecting funding for public schools.
Dollard added some of the outcomes, like high school graduation rates and the number of children aged 3 and 4 in school, improved.
“But they are not equal, not equitable across all groups," she said. "There is work to be done to remediate that.”
She added 61 percent of fourth graders in Florida are not proficient in reading, while 77 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math.
However, the economic and health well-being of the state's children saw some improvement, with economic well-being rising from 42nd last year to 37th this year, and health rising from 35th to 33rd. The economic breakdown looks such things as parents who don't have jobs or face high housing costs; health factors measure child obesity and children without health insurance.
The Family and Community metric stayed the same, with Florida ranking 32nd. This particular indicator measures the poverty levels that children experience and teen births.