WASHINGTON _ As a place to raise children, Texas ranks among the nation’s worst, said a national child advocacy group Tuesday.
Texas ranked 48th in the annual survey of the states by the Children’s Rights Council. The survey was released Tuesday. Maine tops the list at number one.
“We seek to instill a sense of friendly competition between the states,” said David L. Levy, president of the Children’s Rights Council.
But many Texas officials were sharply critical of the report. It fails to look at the big picture, they say.
“We are concerned about the issues taken into account in this study,” said Marilyn Bayless, executive director of the Texas PTA. “It’s not an overall encompassing picture.”
The 10 criteria used in the report were:
- Cases of abuse and neglect
Children not yet immunized by two years old
- High school drop-out rate
- Children in poverty
- Child death rate
- Infant mortality rate
- Mothers who didn’t receive prenatal
- care early on in their pregnancy
- Juvenile arrests
- Teen birth
Texas has steadily been falling in the ranks. In 1995, when the Children’s Rights Council’s annual report first came out, Texas stood at 29th. It fell to 33rd in 1996 and slipped to 36th by 1997. In 1998, that ranking returned to 33rd.
Critics from Texas argue that the Children’s Rights Council fails to include other important factors. “Many other measures show that Texas is improving and will continue to improve,” said Linda Edwards, a spokesperson for Gov. George W. Bush.
The report, she said, did not look at education. “Most parents say education is the single most important issue to their children,” Edwards said. “Texas public schools lead the nation in improving student test scores across the board for students from all walks of life.”
Plus, the state is working to solve problems cited in the report, she said. For example, Edwards acknowledged, the state’s death rate from child abuse was “very, very high.” The council’s report lists the number at 29 deaths per 100,000 children ages one to 14.
But, Edwards said, this past legislative session Gov. Bush signed into law funding for 380 case workers to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect.
Edwards also cited other state provisions for child welfare, such as second-chance homes for unwed teenage mothers, abstinence programs, health insurance to families who can’t get Medicaid and funding for child care for low-income families.
Maine, the report says, is the best state for raising children. New England states dominated the top 10 on the list, which included Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Maryland, Kansas, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Part of the reason Texas got a ranking of 48th, said Bayless of the Texas PTA, lies in its large, diverse population.
“We’re the second most-populated state in the nation,” she said. The top 10 states, on the other hand, she said, “have very homogeneous populations” and didn’t have the same concerns as Texas.
Nevertheless, Bayless said, Texas is making progress in child welfare. “Give us another year or two and look again,” she said. “I think you’ll see a lot of gains.”
For more information on the Children’s Rights Council, visit http://www.vix.com/crc/.