How Texas politicians have failed our children and our state
When I moved to Texas with my wife and three children 40 years ago, I knew that the Texas educational and health care system for the state's children was far from being the best in the nation. However, I had confidence that the situation would improve significantly as time passed and more people moved into the state.
Well, time has passed and the state has grown significantly in the past 40 years. However, the well-being of our children has not improved significantly during that time. Recently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS Count Data Center released state-by-state numbers measuring ten different factors of childhood well-being. The results for Texas children are very disappointing:
- 24% of Texas children live in poverty vs. 20% for the nation as a whole. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of Texas children living in poverty grew by 240,000.
- Infant mortality has grown by 11% since 2000.
- 19% of Texas children do not have health insurance vs. 10% for the nation as a whole, making Texas last in the nation.
- About 72% of Texas fourth graders are not proficient in reading, putting Texas in the bottom quarter of reading proficiency.
- Overall, Texas ranks 34th in the nation with regard to child well-being. This is not a record to be proud of.
If this isn't bad enough, the Texas Legislature recently voted for billions of dollars in cuts to education and health care for children. These cuts could have been avoided if the Legislature and the Governor had been willing to change the State's tax policies and use the "Rainy Day Fund" to help weather the economic crisis. If the children of this state are not a priority to Texas politicians, one has to question if we have the right people in office.
At the finish of the recent legislative session, Senator Rodney Ellis wrote,
"Texas is already at the bottom in what we provide to the people of the Lone Star State; today, we have decided to do even less and make life that much more difficult for those already struggling to get by. It's a road map to a third world economy."
I agree with Senator Ellis and would add that the politicians in Austin have ransomed the future of Texas because the future of our state are our children.
David Atwood, President
Houston Peace and Justice Center