Marion County awarded a B- for its care of children

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Marion County does a pretty good job of caring for kids-except those who need day care.
That’s what that the first Kansas Children’s Report Card for Marion County indicated last week. The results were announced during a series of breakfast events in county schools.
The half-hour events were held at Peabody Junior-Senior High School on Jan. 19, Marion Elementary School on Jan. 20, and Hillsboro Elementary School and Goessel Elementary School on Jan. 21.
The report cards were developed jointly by Kansas Action for Children and Kansas Health Foundation.
Linda Ogden, director of Communities in Schools for Marion County, said the two groups have been issuing a report card for the entire state for several years now, but Marion County was one of 13 counties in the state chosen for a pilot program that applies the criteria used for the state to a specific county.
Marion County’s overall grade was a B-, which compares to a straight B for the state.
“A B- minus tells me I’m about average, and I’ve never liked to be average,” Ogden said as she introduced the findings at Hillsboro Elementary on Friday.
But the overall grade was based on the grades awarded in five sub-categories. Marion County’s scores for those sub-categories were:
— B+ for “safety and security,” which included incidents of violent crime, child abuse and neglect and childhood poverty; (Kansas scored a B)
— B- for “health,” which included statistics regarding early prenatal care, low birth weight, infant mortality and immunizations; (Kansas scored a B)
— A- for “education,” which included high school graduation rates, achievement scores and school readiness; (Kansas scored an A)
— B in “teen years,” which included incidents of substance abuse, teen birth and teen violent death; (Kansas scored a C+)
— D+ in “child care,” which included the quality, cost to parents, capacity and subsidies; (Kansas scored a C).

It was the “child care” score the drew the most comment. Gordon Mohn, superintendent for Unified School District 410, told the home crowd of two dozen or so that Hillsboro contributed as much or more to that D- minus as any other community in the county because of its acute need for affordable day care.

“Sometimes we like to think its the other communities in the county that drag down our scores,” he said. “But in this case it’s Hillsboro that’s dragging down the rest of the county.”

Mohn said he thought the lack of day care in Hillsboro was a community problem, not a school issue. But he hoped the private sector might step forward to collaborate in an effort to provide quality care.

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