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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Kids Count
Tennessee is doing something right when it comes to its children. The state is seeing improvements for children in education, health and economic well-being according to the Annie E. Casey 2017 KIDS COUNT Count Data Book released Tuesday. The state ranks 35th in the country when it comes to overall well-being, up from 38th last year. Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, says the results are promising. "We have had improvements in all indicators," she says. "A slight reduction in children in poverty. We have more children whose parents have secure employment and fewer children living in a household with a high housing cost burden." Specifically, Tennessee ranked 26th in health, 33rd in education, and 35th in economic well-being. O'Neal attributes improvements over years past to programs like Tennessee Promise, which provides tuition-free community college to qualifying individuals. In addition, the TennCare program instituted in the 1990's is seen as one of the major factors in the state's high children's health ranking. While there is positive growth for Tennessee in supporting its children, the Casey Foundation's Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy, points out that a growing and stable economy will help sustain and advance the state further. "Economic stability for families is really important for kids' well-being," Speer says. "In looking at their long-term development, it's about having access to the basics for families so that kids can focus on what they need to focus on, which is healthy development and going to school." Despite such progress in recent years, O'Neal says the state could take steps backward if federal funding is reduced as a result of the Trump administration's budget proposal and American Health Care Act. "So as a state, Tennessee is incredibly reliant on federal funds so we're very concerned about the impact of many of the proposed changes at the federal level in the budget," O'Neal adds. There are still 62,000 children in Tennessee without health coverage.

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