CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An annual report on the well-being of West Virginia children gives the state's education system low marks, ranking it 47th in the nation.
Seventy-nine percent of the state's eighth-graders weren't proficient in math in 2011, while 73 percent of fourth-graders weren't proficient in reading, according to the 2012 KIDS COUNT data book released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia KIDS COUNT, said the state needs to focus more on early childhood education.
"Education is the worst ranking of any domain (in the report) and we at Kids Count do not believe that West Virginia can move out of these bad numbers until it makes a significant investment in young children," Hale told the Charleston Gazette (Hale tells the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/STuMWR).
"We know from economists that investing in young children birth to 3-years-old has the biggest investment than any other investment the state could make. I think one of the reasons we don't do this is because the payoff doesn't come in the election cycle. The payoff comes years later."
West Virginia fared better in other child well-being categories but still lagged behind more than half of the other states.
The Mountain State was ranked 40th for economic well-being, with 37 percent of children having parents without secure employment in 2010, compared to 32 percent in 2005. Twenty-five percent of children lived in poverty in 2010, down from 26 percent in 2005.
The report ranked West Virginia 31st for health as the state saw declines in the numbers of low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance, child and teen deaths and teens who abuse alcohol and drugs.
West Virginia was ranked 33rd for family and community. The number of children in families where the head of the household does not have a high school diploma decreased. But teen births and the number of children living in single-parent homes and high poverty areas increased.