Ask any Eagle or Gypsum resident what he or she values most in these western Eagle County communities, and chances are the response will include “its a great place to raise a kids.”
But is it really? According to the KIDS COUNT in Colorado report, Eagle County scores about average compared to its counterparts statewide when it comes to issues affecting children.
On March 25, the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado report from the Colorado Children’s Campaign was released. The annual publication provides state and county level data on child well-being factors including health, education and economic status. The report has been around for 21 years, and it’s important. It’s a trusted source for data and information on Colorado children and lawmakers, community leaders and child advocates rely on the information for policy debates and community discussions on issues impacting kids. Some portions of the report set off alarms while others indicate Colorado is proactive in providing a good environment for children. Here’s how Eagle County stacks up.
Eagle County has 12,693 kids, and in the category of ‘overall child well-being’, the county ranks 14th overall out of 24 counties. That ranking is down five spots from 2013. Neighboring Summit County was up one spot from last year to 13th overall. Garfield County remained in the same spot — 16th — as last year. Routt County ranked higher than all of its neighbors in spot No. 8. Number one? Douglas County, which ranked remarkably well in all of the categories.
Shelby Rank is one of those Douglas County kids. She said a lot of the area’s success is tied to its public school system. Rank, a senior at Mountain Vista High School, said her school experience from preschool on included a lot of hands-on learning.
“One example of that in high school is our professional internship class, which allows us many opportunities to look at careers we may want to pursue, “ said Rank. “I interned at a hospital and got to see a surgery.”
Rank will study nursing next year at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “It helped me make sure of my career choice and it involved a lot of hands on training.”
Eagle County snapshot
Twenty-two percent of Eagle County’s kids live in single parent homes, which sits at the low end of the spectrum compared to other Colorado counties. Eagle County families that rely on low-cost food is a whopping 40 percent, and 20 percent of our kids are overweight or obese.
Teen birth rates were last calculated in 2012, and out of 1,000 Eagle County teen girls, twenty-two births occurred, ranking the county 12th overall. Douglas County was the lowest at just four births per 1,000 girls and Morgan County was the highest at more than double the amount of Eagle County at 52 births. Almost 13 percent of Eagle County kids have no health insurance, ranking 18th.
Early Childhood Education
About half of Eagle County’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool, and the county ranked 14th of ‘4th graders not proficient in reading.” Thirty-three percent of local 4th graders aren’t proficient in that area.
“We are always looking at expanding our early childhood options, and have done that at some schools,” said Mike Gass, director of student services for Eagle Schools. “There are huge opportunities to close the achievement gap when we provided those kids with preschool.”
Gass said that the Vail Valley Foundation has contributed financially to that, along with the district making budget adjustments. As far as the fourth grade statistic, Gass said that local schools are making progress.
“Our system is closing that gap as middle school results are better,” he said. “We get that done over time – we are diagnostic in programing and continue to gain ground.”
Eagle County’s drop out rate is 2.5 percent, and 8 percent of Eagle County teens are not attending school and not working, ranking as the 10th highest number in Colorado.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on improving the quality of and expanding access to child health, K-12 education and early childhood experiences. For more information about the organization or for the complete KIDS COUNT in Colorado report, please visit www.coloradokids.org.