Editorial Board, Gallup Independent
May 23, 2018

Kids Count data – a national indicator on childhood well-being – is compiled and released each year, but every year the numbers released are always less than inspiring. However, a statewide advocacy group seeking to create policy, using data as a starting point, to improve childhood outcomes is turning things around for the area.

On May 2, New Mexico Voices for Children held the Turning Data into Action workshop at the El Morro Event Center to gather health care and social work advocates to talk about policies to improve child outcomes as well as advocacy strategies using the annual Kids Count data to drive conversations.

Kids Count data, according to their website, shows numerous different measures of childhood well-being. The metrics include things such as economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Unfortunately, in McKinley County, numbers in those metrics generally paint a grim picture for childhood well-being in this area. The numbers are incredibly daunting.

In the report, “39 percent of children in the county are at or below the poverty level; 12 percent higher than the state average of 27 percent.”

The data also showed that “14 percent of fourth-graders in the Gallup-McKinley County and 9 percent of Zuni Public School district fourth-graders are meeting or exceeding expectations in English language arts; considerably lower than the state average of 26 percent. 5.1 percent of children under 18 are without insurance, matching the state average. 76 percent of children are living in high poverty areas in McKinley County compared to 25 percent in the rest of the state.”

Again, the data is less than inspiring. There needs to be accountability for why these numbers are low in comparison to the state average. It seems our school district – including other districts in the area – needs to consider these statistics and help steer our schools in the right direction.

It seems the advocacy groups are the only ones that care about our students when it comes to our performance. These workshops are crucial for understanding the data and learning to take that information to improve our schools for the better.

It’s time to teach locals how to talk about the data in meaningful ways, how to use it to craft policy, and how to ask local lawmakers to pursue changes that will benefit our students.

Like Bill Jordan, senior policy adviser for New Mexico Voices, said, “It’s all about fostering local connections and finding out what’s working, what’s not working, and helping to make changes.”

Copyright 2018, Gallup Independent