Tennessee’s child and family programs receive huge shares of their funding from the federal government, but the state still misses out on some competitive grants, reports the Tennessean. Whether short-staffed, pressed for time or unable to drum up matching state dollars, Tennessee’s government grant writers encounter many hurdles to pulling in more federal funds that could help families, according to the report by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. (Link HERE)
Still, the state spent $3.9 billion in federal dollars on kids and families last fiscal year, and more than $9 billion overall. The report did not attempt to quantify the lost opportunities.
“The departments are fairly aggressive about (grants) that meet their main mission, but because we are a fairly lean government, we don’t have additional staffing and time to branch into other areas,” said Linda O’Neal, commission executive director. “There are opportunities that they see from time to time that they think are good ideas but realize just aren’t practical.”
The commission wants to examine how best to fund programs and reduce waste, so the analysis captures spending on everything from education and health care to arts and reading programs.
“There’s always this perception that there’s this huge duplication of services in government,” O’Neal said. “Through this process, we have not been able to identify substantial duplication.”
The 18-page-report describes Tennessee as “heavily reliant” on federal funds, with more than 90 percent of child spending built on federal dollars or state matching dollars required for federal grants.
“We’re very reliant on federal funds. All states are,” O’Neal said. “We may be more reliant than some.”
Nearly four out of five provisional ballots cast in Tennessee in November were tossed out, according to statewide data. The Tennessean says this indicates that measures meant to ensure all legitimate votes were included resulted in only a few more being counted. Only 1,623, or 23 percent, of the 7,097 paper provisional ballots cast by people who experienced trouble at the polls during the Nov. 6 general election were ruled legitimate by election officials, figures compiled by state election officials show.
The numbers suggest that at least some voters were disenfranchised by steps Republicans took before the 2012 elections, opponents say.
“People ought not to have to fight to vote in a democratic society,” said George Barrett, a Nashville civil rights attorney who is challenging the state’s photo identification law.
Republicans pushed the law through the legislature in 2011 as part of a nationwide attempt to ensure voter integrity, but Barrett and others have called it an attempt to deter voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Election officials say the figures also show that only two-tenths of 1 percent of the 2.4 million Tennesseans who cast ballots in November actually ran into problems when they went to vote, which they take as an indication that the voter ID law worked how it was supposed to.
“I’d like to get to the point where it’s even lower,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections, “but I’ll take this number when you look at the full scale of things.”
The Hamilton County Election Commission found 25 more votes for Todd Gardenhire in Tennessee’s Senate District 10 race Friday, and now his competitor, Greg Vital, wants a total recount, reports the Times Free Press. The votes, products of an electronic uploading error from voting machines, brought Gardenhire’s lead to 40 votes in the district. Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said the uploading error from a machine in the Eastdale precinct didn’t count the votes for five candidates there, including Gardenhire.
“We’re in the process of re-uploading the cards again,” Walden said. “The [overall] results didn’t change.”
The new votes increased Gardenhire’s total to 8,020 over Vital’s 7,980 in a district that includes parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties.
Vital released a statement Friday calling for a recount. The election commission plans to certify the election Aug. 16, and Vital then will have five days to request the recount, election commission attorney Chris Clem said.
Early Friday, the Vital campaign hinged its hopes on provisional ballots, but election officials told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that there were only five — two in Hamilton County and three in Bradley County.
The chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission conceded Tuesday that nearly 1,000 voters received the wrong ballots during early voting for state and federal primary races in the Aug. 2 elections, according to the Commercial Appeal. But voters who received the wrong ballots won’t get to vote again with the right ballots, said commission chairman Robert Meyers.
Meyers, a Republican, publicly thanked the Democratic nominee for a Shelby County Commission seat, Steve Ross, for identifying the glitch that caused the problem.
Saying that the information Ross released on his popular progressive blog Monday was “a correct report,” Meyers at a late afternoon news conference Tuesday tried to assure voters that proper “corrective action” had been taken. The mistakes appear to be related to a late rush by the Election Commission to update voter files based on redistricting in state and federal races.
The votes that were cast for the wrong race will still count, and those voters will not get a chance to cast ballots in the correct race, Meyers said, citing the one-man, one-vote principle. The wrong ballots appear to be dispersed across several races, with the vast majority in state House contests.
When it comes to the “Overall Well-Being” of its children, Tennessee can say it’s moved up among the states, reports the News Sentinel. Last year, Tennessee ranked No. 39 in the Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT National Data Book. This year, it’s No. 36 — higher than most other Southern states.
Did life improve for Tennessee children? Yes, in some ways.
But the nonprofit foundation also changed the way it ranks states. This year’s rankings center around four main categories: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health and Family and Community. In each category, the state looked at four “key indicators.”
It was in the Health category that Tennessee scored highest, ranking No. 16 among all states and driving up its overall ranking. Tennessee showed improvement in each of the four indicators, including a modest (3 percent) drop in low-birthweight babies but notable improvements in the number of teens reportedly abusing alcohol and drugs (5 percent, compared to 8 percent in 2005-2006) and the number of child and teen deaths (18 percent fewer, though still higher than the national average).
In addition, the number of children without health insurance decreased by 29 percent, to a number lower than the national average.
— Note: the Kids Count Data Book is available HERE.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Children’s advocates say a report released Wednesday on the welfare of children in Tennessee supports their belief that more preventive care programs will benefit youth long term, as well as save the state money.
The Kids Count report, partially funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, focused on children’s well-being, but also examined how the state spends funds to improve the lives of children.
Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said universal prevention services have the lowest per child cost and the greatest cost-benefit potential because of their ability to prevent downstream costs.
However, they received the least funding, according to the report compiled by the commission.
The Republican National Committee on Friday issued its breakdown of the candidate delegate count in Tennessee based on results of the Super Tuesday presidential primary results:
Rick Santorum 29
Mitt Romney 16
Newt Gingrich 10
But Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican Party, says some of the congressional district results are so close that the state party won’t say what the breakdown is until the results are officially certified. And the RNC says its count is subject to change.
Tennessee will send a total of 58 delegates to the Republican National Convention, 55 based on Super Tuesday voting and the other three uncommitted as RNC delegates.
One in every eight Tennessee children is growing up in a high poverty community, according to data snapshot released this week by the Annie E. Casey Kids Count project.
More from the News Sentinel: “The concern is there are reduced opportunities they have to be successful in school and in life,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
….The report — which highlights newly available national, state, and city data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — found that one-fourth of Tennessee children live in poverty.
The snapshot indicates how high-poverty communities are harmful to children, outlines regions in which concentrated poverty has grown the most, and offers recommendations to address these issues.
O’Neal said her agency is familiar with the numbers but was surprised to see that the number of children in concentrated poverty areas had doubled since 2000.
From 2006 to 2010, about 200,000 Tennessee children lived in concentrated poverty areas, or communities where 30 percent or more of the children live in poverty.
O’Neal said she believes that is because of the effect of the recent recession and the state’s high unemployment rate.
One of the things that sets Tennessee apart from other states, she said, is its poverty is in both urban and rural areas of the state, from Memphis and Nashville to the Appalachian community
Eddie Davis takes notes at every death scene in Hamblen County. He’s served as coroner for 20 years. He counted 28 fatal drug overdoses in his county two years ago. The Tennessee Department of Health counted six.
More from Matt Lakin’s story: “I don’t know how they’re keeping their numbers, but that’s ridiculous,” Davis said.
“They’re at least three or four times off. We’re a county of a little over 50,000 people, and we’re averaging about one case a week of either suspected or known overdoses. We had 53 last year. In the first nine months of this year we had 43. We’ve had about 250 in the past 10 years, and the number’s growing.”
He and others believe Tennessee’s system of reporting and investigating deaths grossly undercounts the number of fatal overdoses each year. The critics range from police to medical professionals, who say the official numbers paint a shallow portrait of the state’s most deadly drug problem.
“We don’t have a consistent system of reporting,” said Elizabeth Sherrod, coordinator of the Tennessee Drug Diversion Task Force. “We don’t have a clear picture, because there’s no agency tracking that. It is a money issue. If police or a family don’t get an autopsy done, we don’t have that information. If we could just get toxicology screens done in every (death) case, I think we would see we’re not too far behind Florida, and they’re losing seven people a day.”
Numbers like those would translate to more than 2,500 deaths a year, shoving car wrecks aside and placing overdoses close behind heart disease and cancer as one of the state’s top killers. Police say they’ve known it for years — and been waiting for an outcry that never came
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, in its National Kids Count Data Book released today, ranked Tennessee 39th in the nation for the overall well being of children.
From the News Sentinel account: According to the report, since 2000 Tennessee has decreased its infant mortality rate by 9 percent (although, at 8 deaths per 1,000 live births, it’s still higher than the national rate of 6). It’s decreased the death rate of children ages 1-14 by 29 percent (putting it almost on par with the national rate) and the teen death rate by 7 percent (still, at 84 per 100,000, higher than the national rate of 62). Accidents, homicide and suicide are the leading causes of teen deaths.
Though the percentage of low birth weight babies remained unchanged (and still 10 percent higher than the national average), the state teen birthrate, 56 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19, has decreased by 5 percent (the national rate is 41). Despite improving, Tennessee still ranks in the bottom 40 states in most of those categories.
The percentage of children living in poverty, defined by the foundation as $21,756 or less annually for a family of four, went up in Tennessee and nationally. Almost a quarter of Tennessee’s children live in poverty, the report said, a 20 percent increase over the 2000 statistics.
In addition, the percentage of Tennessee children living in single-parent families — 36 percent — jumped nearly 10 percent since the 2000 report. This year’s report also noted 35 percent of Tennessee children live in families where no parent has full-time year-round employment, compared to 31 percent nationally. In 2010, 11 percent of children had at least one unemployed parent.
Links: the main kids count webpage HERE, the Tennessee information webpage HERE.