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What about the disconnected?

Another report packed with statistics, and another reason to fret about the future of this state.

In its annual Kids Count survey, the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds West Virginia has the largest percentage of idle, disconnected teenagers and young adults of any state.

According to the report, 21 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in West Virginia -- about 33,000 people -- are considered "disconnected." They are not working and not in school, and have no education beyond high school.

Right behind them are a large percentage of teens, ages 16-19, who aren't in school and aren't working.

This is grim, and it's not the kind of stuff that makes big corporations want to locate here.

Margie Hale, executive director of the West Virginia Kids Count Fund, points to a lack of pre-school education for our kids, which can lead to substandard performance all throughout a child's education.

"Research has shown (lack of pre-school) to affect the rate of high school completion, test scores and eventual income levels," said Hale. "All those good things are related to having good early education, and this is a big thing we're working on in West Virginia."

Hale, however, remains optimistic. She points to plans for a statewide pre-K program for 4-year-olds and the significant drop in the number of children living in poverty -- 27 percent. She also says more kids are getting proper health care and fewer teens are having babies.

"When people just hear bad news, they throw up their hands and say, 'I can't get involved in this. This is too big for me.' But in fact, what we are doing is making a difference," said Hale.

We would like to share in Hale's glass-is-half-full thinking, but we also feel that a whole generation of West Virginia youth has missed the boat, and their future is uncertain, if not bleak.

We remain a proponent of pre-K programs, but ask: What can be done for our teens and young adults?

James Logue