The Oklahoman, June 16, 2008: Beating the numbers

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The Oklahoman Editorial

THE best that can be said about a new national child well-being report is that Oklahoma worst of all states. Sadly, that’s barely true and says much about the difficult lives of many Oklahoma children.

The annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation rates states in 10 categories. Oklahoma finished 43rd overall, down from 42nd last year. The state’s statistics fell in six areas, including low-birthweight babies, child deaths and children living in poverty. Four areas showed improvement, including dropouts and child deaths.

There’s no use pretending we’re shocked by the poor showing. Oklahoma’s been dwelling in the cellar of such rankings for a while and that won’t change in months or even a few years. At the core of many of the benchmarks is poverty. And in Oklahoma, that’s a real problem, especially for children.

The report showed about 24 percent of the state’s children live in poverty. Poverty generally means the parents are undereducated, and the kids will be, too. That leads to low-paying jobs that won’t pay the bills. Sometimes, the parents turn to crime even if only to provide necessities and the kids will soon follow.

The best way to tackle these statistics, and improve life for the children behind them, is education. Lots of it. Early childhood education programs are needed for the youngest Oklahomans, as are support programs for their parents so they can help their kids and teach them the value of education. High expectations for children as they grow up in our schools are necessary, preparing them for higher education or quality job training after high school.

The Oklahoma we know and love can be better than these statistics. This is no way to treat our children.

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