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New Data Reveals District Children and Youth Carry Heavy Loads Into the New School Year
(September 12, 2022)—The start of a new school year can bring many feelings for families. In the District of Columbia, many families are relieved that summer is over and their children have increased support from educators and a range of out-of-school time programs. Recent results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test shows how brutal the pandemic has been on kids. Their well-being is at stake. The newly updated DC Kids Count data looks at how kids in the District are faring by using demographic, economic justice, health and safety, and early childhood measures across the city and in each of the eight wards.
Like the recently released national 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, much of the data in DC Kids Count covers the years just before the pandemic. However, where possible it provides a sense of where children and youth stood this past year–particularly on the website’s Impacts of COVID-19 page.
While COVID has likely exacerbated the vaccination problem, early childhood data show that vaccine coverage for kindergarten students has been declining for years. The percentage of public school kindergartners with essential vaccines (DTaP/DT and MMR) decreased from 92% in the 2012-13 school year to 79% in the 2020-21 school year.
There are some bright spots in the data around children having health insurance coverage and unemployment improving from 2020’s high. However, many data points show racial disparities that underscore the ongoing need to address structural barriers for children and youth of color.
Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Action which produces DC Kids Count, said, “It's no secret that the pandemic and inflation have squeezed family pocketbooks, especially in most of the District's Black and Latinx families. Despite DC's strong economy, the divide has deepened between families of color and white families. Many kids are on edge and are worried about secure housing for their families, having enough food to eat, and their safety.”
Regarding health and safety, police stopped Black youth under the age of eighteen more than 10 times the rate of their white peers in 2021. Police were also far more likely to use force with Black children. Nearly all (115 out of 121) of the use-of-force incidents in 2020 with children younger than 18 were with Black children.
Rachel Metz, DC Action Research and Data Manager said, ”Well before COVID, when you broke data down by race, it was clear that across different areas of well-being Black and often Latinx children and youth were at a disadvantage compared to their white peers. The pandemic exacerbated those disparities in many ways, but in some ways, it provided an opportunity to shift the status quo. As we create our new normal, the data about where we’ve been can help guide us into thoughtful choices about the District we want for our young people.”
DC Action seeks to facilitate data-informed decision-making with DC Kids Count and assist policymakers and community groups in addressing some challenges hindering the District's children and youth from being safe, powerful and heard. More data from the pandemic time frame will be available in the coming months about economics, mental health, demographics, and social justice. Be sure to bookmark the website.
DC Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization working to make the District of Columbia a place where all kids grow up safe, resilient, powerful, and heard. DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the DC Home Visiting Council, and the Youth Homelessness Advocacy Coalition bring that power forward, creating space for all residents to raise their voices and make change.