An increasingly dependent population
The annual KIDS COUNT report - the latest was released Monday - provides a valuable, if disheartening, assessment of the current state of West Virginia's youngest generation.
And thus, of what the state faces far in the future. It doesn't look good. In 2011:
* West Virginia ranked 43rd among the 50 states for its teen birth rate.
Nationally, the teen birth rate fell 15 percent to a record low. In West Virginia, the teen birth rate rose from 43 per 1,000 teens to 45 per thousand.
* 36 percent of West Virginia children lived in single-parent homes in 2011.
* Roughly a third of the state's children had parents who lack secure employment.
* More than a quarter of the state's children have lived in poverty since 2005.
* The state's educational system ranks fourth worst in the nation for the second straight year.
* 73 percent of fourth-graders weren't proficient in reading.
* 79 percent of eighth-graders weren't proficient in math.
* 22 percent of students didn't graduate high school on time in the 2009-2010 school year.
West Virginia has gained national attention for its commitment to pre-school programs for 4-year-olds.
Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia KIDS COUNT, strongly urges the state to invest in pre-kindergarten programs for 3-year-olds as well.
Maybe it would help more vulnerable kids find the flight path to education and to prosperity. Maybe it wouldn't.
But it would bring cradle-to-grave dependence closer to reality than ever before. If only there were enough working people to pay for it.