CA’s well-being report finds room for improvement

CA’s well-being report finds room for improvement

(Calif.) State officials won high marks for efforts to make sure all low-income children are covered by health insurance but challenges still stand when it comes to ensuring access to care and to specialized services, according to a new survey.

The 2016 report card on California from Children Now estimated that during the two years ending in 2015 almost 350,000 gained health insurance benefits, cutting the size of the uninsured population down to about 4 percent. Largely as the result of a budget deal last June, California became one of only a handful of states that allow all income-eligible children coverage regardless of immigration status.

Diving deeper, the report card gave California a C-minus for access to health care services; a D-plus when it came to oral health; and a D-plus for mental and behavior health.

“California is a wealthy state, with more assets than most to devote to its children’s wellbeing,” said Ted Lampert, president of Children Now in a statement. “It’s time to put more of our resources to work for kids, by investing in quality programs.”

Organized as non-partisan advocacy group for advancing issues of concern to children, Children Now periodically releases research and analysis intended to influence both public opinion and lawmakers.

The organization noted that California’s nine million children receive some of the lowest quality government services – ranking 49th on economic well-being on a national survey conducted last year by the Casey Foundation. Despite the state’s overall wealth, one in four children live in poverty and 22 percent are English learners.

Researchers from Children Now did see some bright spots, especially surrounding some of the new K-12 education initiatives undertaken by the Brown administration. Public school funding, which has long dragged near the bottom nationally, received a grade of C-minus as per pupil funding of $10,120 is only moderately behind the national average of $12,434.

The report card also highlighted the funding mechanism targeting low-income, English learners and foster youth governed by the Local Control Funding Formula. California’s new curriculum standards – based on the Common Core – received a B-minus for meeting readiness benchmarks.

Still, the status of early learners was singled out as another problem area: California received a D for the health care provided infants and toddlers. The team found that state subsidies only cover about 55 percent of the cost of care and that state spending on services for infants and toddlers decreased by 30 percent during the recession.

New educational initiates aimed at pre-school students got a B-minus while a new system for evaluating child care providers received a C-minus. The state’s newly-established transitional kindergarten system got a B-minus, largely because of a disconnect between K-12 districts and early learning programs.

California is also one of 29 states that consistently collect data on the readiness of children to transition to kindergarten.

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