Not far into the 56-page Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a consistent theme emerges: Idaho lacks pre-kindergarten education.
"Fourth-grade reading scores are declining at the same time the rest of the nation is improving," said Jim Munkres, communications manager of Idaho Kids Count. "That's obviously alarming."
The 2015 Data Book, released Tuesday, July 21, shows 67 percent of Idaho fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, compared to 65 percent in 2007.
"We see a relationship between kids not ready to learn when they enter kindergarten and their reading proficiency in fourth grade," said Munkres. "Improving our rate of kids in pre-K would go a long way."
That connects to another sobering statistic: According to Kids Count, 68 percent of Idaho children are not attending preschool, up from 67 percent in 2009. In 2013, 33,000 Idaho 3- and 4-year-olds were not enrolled in any kind of preschool. Idaho ranks 49th in the nation for kids attending pre-K, according to the census.
"It's important that every kid has the opportunity to reach their full potential," said Alejandra Cerna Rios, of Idaho Voices for Children, who pointed to the recently announced partnership between the city of Boise and the Boise School District to introduce free pre-K at two schools in the Vista neighborhood.
"The city of Boise has made a meaningful commitment to school readiness with the Vista project," she said.
Another troubling statistic from the Kids Count survey reveals that Idaho ranks 40th in the nation for percentage of insured kids. In 2013, approximately 38,000 Gem State kids were uninsured.
"Many people have worked very hard to bring health insurance to Idaho's kids," said Idaho Kids Count Director Lauren Necochea. "But because Idaho has not yet addressed our health coverage gap, many working families also face the uncertainty of being uninsured."
Kids Count put Idaho in the bottom half of American states when it came to the overall health picture of its most vulnerable citizens.