Monday, December 21, 2009

From California To Florida; school district poverty levels

The U.S. Census Bureau has released poverty statistics for school districts across the country. We found a couple of stories that focus of the numbers for two different regions; Tallahassee, Florida and Redding, California.

First from Tallahassee Democrat, writer Iricka Berlinger gives the statistics and a summary of the Census Bureau methodology.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the poverty estimates of school districts around the country. The Census Bureau uses a set equation that plugs in numbers of family size and income to determine who is in poverty. If a family's total income is less than the family's threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered in poverty.

The Census Bureau reported that state average of children ages 5 to 17 living in poverty in 2008 was 16.7 percent. In Leon County Schools, 5,896 out of the 37,807 students live in poverty; 15.5 percent of students. In Wakulla County, 15.6 percent; Jefferson County, 20.7 percent; Franklin County, 27.7 percent; and Gadsden County, 29.2 percent of students.

The numbers have grown by about 2 percent more students since 2007 and are only likely to increase more with the decline of the economy.

Shaia Beckwith-James, spokesman for Gadsden County Schools, said she wasn't surprised to hear that Gadsden County has one of the highest rates of poverty in the state.

"It's evident that we have students that come to us and have to deal with a lot of life challenges," she said. "But we don't want them to make excuses. Every student that comes to school is going to be given the chance to succeed."

Now from California's Record Searchlight, writer Amanda Winters breaks down the data for the Redding area.

"There's not a lot of employment here," said Merle Stolz, superintendent of Indian Springs School District, where the Census Bureau estimates 31 percent of children live in poverty.

Stolz said the Big Bend school's participation in the free and reduced-price lunch program is near 100 percent. During the 2008-2009 school year, 11 of the school's 14 students were enrolled in the program.

But the highest estimated percentage of children living in poverty in Shasta County is in the Cascade Union Elementary School District in Anderson, according to the data. The district has a child poverty rate of 34 percent, but close to 83 percent of the district's estimated 1,400 children receive discounted meals.

That's a 5 percent increase over last year, said Debby Andrew, the district's director of child nutrition.

"There are kids that can't afford to have food," Andrew said. "I've had parents call me and say they don't have the money to send kids to school with their meals."

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