- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee has improved three spots to rank 35th in overall child well-being, according to a new report released Tuesday.

In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, Tennessee improved seven spots to 35th in economic well-being, jumped two positions to 26th in health, improved three spots to 33rd in education, but dropped one position to 40th in family and community.

“Number one, we’re pleased that this is Tennessee’s highest ranking ever,” Gov. Bill Haslam said at a news conference. “Number two, we are not satisfied with being number 35.”

The report measures child well-being in those four categories by looking at 16 indicators, from children without health insurance to high school students not graduating on time. It provides year-to-year and five-year data.

Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause said the number of teenagers out of a job and out of school decreased significantly in 2015. That was the first year of the Tennessee Promise program, which makes all high school graduates eligible for free tuition at the state’s community colleges and technical schools.

In 2014, 30,000 teens ages 16 through 19 were not working and not in school, or 9 percent of that population. In 2015, the number dropped to 24,000, or 7 percent of that group of teens, the report states.

The initiative is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to boost the percentage of Tennesseans with higher education degrees or certificates from the current 38 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

The state fell behind the most with a rank of 40th in family and community factors. The decline in teen births in Tennessee has not occurred as quickly as it has across the country. And there was a slight increase in children living in high-poverty areas, up to 230,000, or about 15 percent.

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