Report: Well being of Ohio children falling behind nation - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Report: Well being of Ohio children falling behind nation

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The lives of Ohio children have improved the last 10 years, but not as much as children nationwide, according to an annual study of child well-being.

Overall, the well-being of Ohio children has fallen from 22 in 1990 to 28 out of the 50 states in 2000, the Kids Count report said.

"The nation has improved more than we have," Eileen Cooper Reed, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said Tuesday.

Ohio did improve in seven of 10 categories, including drops in the infant mortality rate, child death rate and rate of deaths of teen-agers by accident, homicide and suicide. But there were increases in the percentage of families living with children headed by a single parent and an increase in the number of low birth-weight babies.

Reed said the release of the report is timely given the debate in the Legislature over the state's next two-year budget that begins July 1. The state has struggled to balance the budget and has been looking at cuts of some social programs, including child care and Head Start, along with a temporary increase in the sales tax.

Reed said the state's overall rank is a reflection of state policies in effect in the 1990s.

For example, she said school funding policies in Ohio could be a factor in the increase in the percentage of high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 19 from 7 percent to 8 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Reed did praise Gov. Bob Taft's proposal to overhaul Ohio's tax system, calling it fairer for families because it spreads more of the tax burden to corporations.

But she said legislative proposals to temporarily increase the sales tax by 1 cent would hurt Ohio families.

"At a time of the economy going south, the government is adopting policies to cut services and paying for it with a regressive tax," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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