Nevada remains close to the bottom of the rankings for overall child well-being, at 47th in the nation – the same as last year – according to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Researchers combed over statistics on dozens of indicators of health, education and finances and found that 21 percent of Nevada kids live in poverty, compared with 15 percent ten years ago.
Louise Helton, the communications specialist for the Kids Count project at UNLV, says too many parents still are scraping by on low-paid part-time jobs, so their kids are growing up poor.
“You know, when you look back 10 years, we were 33rd overall,” she says. “So you can see how the recession really hit us so hard, and we are still having a desperate time trying to turn things around for child well-being in the state of Nevada.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval just vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers with health benefits, $12 an hour for those without. So the minimum wage remains at $7.25 with insurance and $8.25 without it.
The numbers for health-insurance coverage are improving. In 2010, 17 percent of Nevada’s kids lacked health insurance and now it’s down to 8 percent. Nationally, it’s down to 5 percent.
The report shows 29 percent of Nevada kids fail to finish high school on time, an 8 percent improvement since 2010.
The Casey Foundation’s Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, notes that graduation rates are improving but says the state lags far behind in the number of young children in preschool.
“Early-childhood education can have a significant impact, especially for low-income kids, in terms of helping them with their development and making sure that they’re ready to go to kindergarten,” Speer says.
Just over a third of Nevada children are enrolled in preschool. This past session, a bill that would have expanded preschool access across the state failed in the Legislature.
By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – NV