Arizona ranked 47th in nation for children's quality of life, new report shows

PHOENIX - For the second consecutive year, Arizona ranks at the bottom of the nation for quality of life for local children, according to the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book .

Three key indicators -- education, health and security -- contribute to Arizona's rank as the third worst in the nation for future educational and economical success.

More than two out of three children in Arizona did not attend nursery and/or preschool despite substantial research proving the societal benefits of investing in quality early education.

"It's not so much about sitting down and going homework when you're three. It's having that opportunity to bond with a teacher, be with other students, get the idea of what it means to be learning," said Dana Wolfe Naimark of the Children's Action Alliance in Phoenix.

Wolfe Naimark says skipping preschool sets kids up for trouble in elementary school and years down the road trouble getting high paying jobs as adults, which she says cold be why the report also shows a high number of kids living in poverty in Arizona.

"Education is the foundation and can really help kids who are in families that are struggling economically."

Although Arizona has been adding jobs since 2010, the child poverty rate has increased. More than a third of children live in a household where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment.

The conditions of Arizona children directly affect the future economy and success of the state.

"Children are our nation's most precious resource, as well as our future leaders, employees, citizens and parents," said Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of The Annie E. Casey Foundation. "The early years of their lives are a critical juncture in their development. As our economic recovery continues, we cannot lose sight of doing whatever it takes to help kids, particularly kids in low-income families, reach their full potential - and that includes laying a solid foundation from the moment they are born."

Despite the low scores in early education, high school graduation rates are up 5 percent from 2005/2006,  Children's Action Alliance attributes the improvement to a concerted effort by the state to invest in high school education, and it believes putting the same focus in preschool enrollment will only continue to grow the graduation success rates.

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