June 21, 2016

NM’s not alright for children: Again ranks 49th for child well-being

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New Mexico is “falling behind” on some key indicators according to a new report released this week.

The annual KIDS COUNT report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that New Mexico ranks 50th in education and 49th in overall child well-being—again at or near the bottom of the list on key indicators for the state.

New Mexico has ranked at or near the bottom on education for years. The number of eighth graders not proficient in math in 2015 worsened since 2013, while the number of high school students not graduating on time in 2012-2013 worsened since 2011-2012.

New Mexico still sees 30 percent of children living in poverty, which ranks 48th. That number has been between 29 percent and 30 percent since at least 2012.

New Mexico Voices for Children runs the KIDS COUNT program for New Mexico.

“There are some bright spots for New Mexico in the Data Book this year,” Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children said. “However, some of our success is overshadowed by the fact that other states are seeing more significant improvement. Once again, New Mexico is falling behind.”

One of those bright spots is an improvement on health, where New Mexico saw gains—but still ranks 44th, near the bottom of the list.

Still, New Mexico Voices for Children lauded the decision to expand Medicaid for the improvement.

“We can give a lot of the credit for this improvement on the fact that New Mexico chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” New Mexico KIDS COUNT Director Amber Wallin, MPA, said  “Some 35,000 kids who were already eligible for Medicaid but who were not signed up received insurance when their parents enrolled. States that didn’t expand Medicaid didn’t see such a dramatic increase in children with health insurance. It just goes to show that public policies can lead to dramatic improvements for our children.”

Another bright spot is a large drop in the percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. In 2012, 10 percent did so, which ranked 48th. In 2016, that fell to five percent, tied for fifth-best in the country with 30 other states.

This was the only indicator listed where New Mexico ranked better than 35th.

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