Monday, December 17, 2007

Reed disputes poverty finding

from The Springfield News Sun

School district says a big challenge is that 67 percent of its students are in poverty or poor.

By Lucas Sullivan

SPRINGFIELD — One Springfield City Schools board member says the district's children aren't as poor as some might think.

"I just want people to know that the 67 percent of children living in poverty is not accurate," board member Don Reed said. "I did some poking around on the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site and found that the number of children living below the federal poverty line in Springfield is significantly less than that."

District administrators have said that one of the biggest challenges it faces is that 67 percent of its children are in poverty or poor.

"That is false," Reed said.

The number of children living below the poverty line in Springfield is 27 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Sixty-seven percent of students in Springfield City Schools are on free and reduced lunch.

A family of four qualifies for free or reduced lunch if the annual household income is about $38,000 or less annually, according to Ohio Department of Education.

The federal poverty line for a family of four is about $20,000 annually.

But the ODE said it doesn't use the federal poverty line to determine how much Title I funding a district gets. Title I funding is a federal program that tries to help districts with the highest number of poor children — those on free and reduced lunch, said ODE spokeswoman Karla Carruthers.

"I just don't want people to get this perception that a majority of students in our school district are in poverty," Reed said. "I understand that $38,000 still isn't a lot of money. But it is a significant difference when compared to the federal poverty line."

Dona Starrett, director of elementary services for the district, said she is concerned with the number of children on free and reduced lunch because that is the standard the government uses.

"I understand what Don is saying," she said. "But I think if you asked parents, $38,000 is not a lot of money to raise a family on."

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