A new report from the Children’s Advocacy Alliance shows when it comes to education, health and the overall economic well-being of Nevada’s youth, the state has an overall D rating.
But the annual Nevada Children’s Report Card, which was released Monday, was based on data collected prior to the Covid-19 health pandemic that caused massive budget cuts to social services at the same time many Nevadans were plunged into employment, financial and housing insecurity.
“This snapshot is a reflection of a time before this pandemic,” said Children’s Advocacy Alliance executive director Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner.
The already poor rankings in poverty rates and education outcomes will likely worsen in months to come. The health crisis, the alliance warned, will have long-term effects on children and youth.
“Isolation, stress and economic strain are secondary symptoms of the Covid-19 pandemic that will negatively impact children’s mental, physical and emotional health for years to come,” said Dr. Kelly Bumgarner, the health policy manager with the alliance.
The report card shows the state received an F in education, a D+ in economic well-being, D in health and a C+ in safety.
According to the section on economic well being, Nevada ranked 30th in child poverty and 43rd in food insecurity. An estimated 33 percent of children lived in households with high housing and rent costs.
The alliance notes there are already projections on how the pandemic will hurt families and households with children.
“According to the U.S. Census Household Survey between Sept. 28 and Oct. 12, 38 percent of adults with children in the household reported they had slight-to-no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent,” said Aaliyah Goodie, a data analyst with the alliance. “Another 14 percent of households with children in the home reported there was often not enough food in the house to eat. Feeding America estimates that due to the Covid-19 pandemic the child food insecurity rate in Nevada is projected to be at 32.9 (percent) in 2020.”
Nevada has consistently ranked poorly on national lists and received failing grades when it comes to education.
That hasn’t changed.
The report card showed Nevada failed on issues like school readiness, which looks at poor ratings in preschool enrollment and per capita spending for preschool programs, and education funding, which looks at per pupil spending.
“Multiple studies have shown that in Nevada it would take an investment of at least $2,000 more per pupil than we are currently investing in order to adequately educate our students,” Goodie said. “This not only impacts our school readiness but our economic workforce.”
The state did improve in student achievement and high school completions. But both moved from F grades in the previous year to D grades.
The alliance, again, noted that because of Covid the state should “expect substantial learning losses due to far less instructional time being delivered.”
“We undoubtedly will need to eventually invest in our students, the majority of them who may be getting less education than they need right now,” said Annette Dawson with the alliance.
Worsening health outcomes in the state include a rising infant mortality rate and a decrease in the number of women receiving prenatal care, though the report noted the national ranking improved. Obesity and suicide rates also increased.
Some areas did improve, said Bumgarner. The syphilis rate for Nevada teens dropped from 22.9 per 100,000 in 2017 to 9.4 per 100,000 in 2019. The rate is still above the national U.S. average, which is 7.7 per 100,000.
“The teen birth rate in Nevada has decreased from 24 births per 100,000 teenage females from 2017 to 21 per 100,000 in 2019 for a ranking 35th nationally,” she said.
For the safety category, where the state saw some improvements and received its highest grades, there are still areas Nevada ranks poorly if not last compared to other states.
Nevada still leads the nation in child and youth homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment, which the report references, showed in 2019 there were 1,285 unaccompanied homeless youth
The state also ranks 44th for juvenile justice with 191 per 100,000 youth residing in juvenile detention or correctional facilities.
Among the priorities in the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session, Jared Busker, the associate director for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, said the group is supporting efforts to increase access to health insurance for children and overall health coverage for expecting and new moms, increase the state’s general fund contribution to the child care subsidy program and expand the pre-K program.
Some lawmakers have already drafted bill draft requests addressing some of the issues.
“The Children’s Advocacy Alliance wants to make sure we do not make any significant cuts to programs and services that are supporting children and families during this time,” he said. “Looking over the next session, that’s one of our top priorities.”
But with the election, Tyler-Garner added there is another opportunity for people to make a difference in children’s lives.
“We hope that you will choose leaders who prioritize the needs of our children and families,” she said.