Poverty worsens for local school-age children

The percentage of local school-age children living in poverty is increasing even as programs designed to meet their needs erode amid ongoing federal and state budget cuts.

The poverty rate among children ages 5 to 17 living within Burbank Unified boundaries inched upward by 0.9% to 13% in 2010, according data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the percentage of impoverished children in Glendale Unified increased 1.9% to 18.5%.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Rick White, director of social services and volunteer coordinator at the Glendale Salvation Army, which operates a local food bank. “We are seeing more than double the number of families we saw just two years ago.”

The Burbank and Glendale figures are considerably lower than in Los Angeles Unified where 27.3% of students are classified as impoverished. Still, the percentages represent a third year-over-year increase. In 2007, the poverty rate among children ages 5 to 17 in Burbank and Glendale school districts was 11% and 16%, respectively.

The data, published on Nov. 29 as part of the Census Bureau’s annual Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates , included statistics for school-age children living in 3,142 counties nationwide and nearly 14,000 Title I-eligible school districts across the United States.

The local numbers mirror a national trend. Between 2007 and 2010, about 20% of counties across the country recorded significant increases in poverty rates among school-age children. In addition, one third — or 1,011 — of counties had school-age poverty rates significantly above the national poverty rate of 19.8%.

The increases come in tandem with shrinking resources intended to service impoverished children. Glendale Unified was forced to downsize its Early Education and Extended Learning Program — which includes preschool as well as before- and after-school programming for low-income students — by about $1.2 million, or 12%, during the current school year.

The reduction should carry the program through June 2012 despite anticipated midyear cuts from Sacramento, said director Kelly King, but added that she is already nervous about what the 2012-13 school year could bring for those dependent on the free and low-cost school-based services.

The needs of families vary greatly from school to school, King said.

“Because Glendale Unified ranges from La Crescenta down to south Glendale, the economics of our schools are very dramatically different across the district,” King said.

It is important for administrators and teachers to know their students, she said.

“You don’t want to assume that families can afford things,” King said. “Even at some schools where they don’t have as many children on free and reduced lunch, families are still struggling with this economy.”


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