Political child abuse recorded
Nevada’s elected officials are quick to give away our tax dollars to lure wealthy corporations like Tesla, Apple and Switch to our state under the guise of jobs for the working class when it’s obvious it’s really about creating riches for developers and business barons.
But we rarely talk about who pays the biggest price in terms of overcrowded and underfunded schools, minuscule public health budgets, and wages that don’t cover decent, stable housing or health insurance deductibles. That would be our kids.
The 2018 Nevada Kids Count book was released last month, and there was little to cheer about in our overall ranking of 47th in the nation in “child well being,” well below the three states with the best rankings—New Hampshire at number one, Massachusetts at two, New Jersey at three. Thank God for Mississippi (48th), Louisiana (49th) and New Mexico (50th) for cushioning us from being dead last.
It’s true that Nevada has continued to make significant improvements in children’s health care coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its mandate that everyone have health insurance, a mandate stripped from the law by the Republican Congress last year. Nevada experienced an 8.1 percent decline in the uninsured rate among children between 2013 and 2016, one of the largest decreases in the nation, although we still rank low, at 43rd.
We did a smidgen better in the “family and community” category of the data book (42nd), and we ranked 43rd in “economic well-being.” Thirty-four percent of our children live in households with a high housing cost burden, a number that will likely worsen in future years thanks to the new, out-of-state residents pouring in to work those jobs that were supposedly created for Nevadans.
Education is the category that always disappoints despite decades of bipartisan efforts to improve our schools. This year we ranked 49th, with 64 percent of our young children ages three and four not in school, far worse than the national average of 52 percent. According to Kids Count, 69 percent of our fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 73 percent of our eighth graders can’t do their math. Twenty-six percent of our high school students did not graduate on time during the 2015-16 school year, compared to the national average of 16 percent. You can’t blame the school districts for all of it, either—hungry and sick kids can’t learn, and children who don’t go to preschool must catch up in underfunded, overcrowded classrooms.
Before we shrug our shoulders and mutter about how the data is skewed and doesn’t take into account our uniqueness, let’s face the truth. Children are not our top priority in Nevada. If they were, we’d take this shameful report card to heart and start investing every last cent we have in education and health care, starting at infancy. We’d demand an end to transferable tax credits like those we gave to Tesla, tax credits they’ve sold to casino corporations that are now using them to lower their gambling tax obligations, creating a double whammy for taxpayers.
And now, another worry. Kids Count estimates about one million children younger than age five were not counted during the 2010 U.S. Census, often because their entire family wasn’t counted due to homelessness, immigration status or transiency. In Nevada, about 68,000 children live in hard-to-count census areas.
These lost children matter since the 2020 Census helps determine how much federal funding Nevada will receive for programs that directly benefit young children such as Head Start, Women, Infants, and Children (food and nutrition service), and Title One (federal aid program for public schools). And guess who wants to add a citizenship question to the census to drive even more people underground?
States like Nevada with large and transient immigrant populations stand to lose critical dollars our children desperately need.