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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Study: Number of poor children decreasing

Monday, December 8, 2003

- Percentage of Clay Community Schools children living in poverty has dropped from 11.5 to 10.3 percent, from 1995 to 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Teacher Angela Lively keeps a box of shoes in her kindergarten classroom, so poor children can get a new pair when their old shoes won't fit.

When she sends assignments home, she includes packets of crayons, glue sticks and scissors to make sure students have supplies to finish projects. Students at her Indianapolis school can get hats, coats, gloves, belts, socks, backpacks and even underwear if their parents can't afford them.

"We see a lot of needs here," Lively said. "I feel sad, but I try to do what I can to make the situation better."

Fewer Indiana children were living in poverty in 2000 than five years earlier, but some areas of the state saw an increase in child poverty, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The percentage of poor school-age children decreased in 206 of Indiana's 296 districts, the Census reported. The percentage of poor children in 86 districts increased from 1995 numbers.

The Census estimates, released Nov. 28, help determine how much each state will get from the almost $13 billion pot of federal funding to schools with poor children. Statewide, the numbers help Indiana divvy up more than $150 million to the schools that need it most.

Although education officials do not want to see any child living in poverty, fewer poor children means less money from the federal government. That could lead to reductions in remedial classes, reading programs or after-school tutors.

"It's serious business and it's a lot of money," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed said. Less child poverty is "good news for our state, even though it might mean less money for programs," she said. "Hopefully it means the students are more stable in their homes."

Gary schools had the greatest percentage of poor children in Indiana with 27 percent. Still, the percentage of poor children in the district has steadily declined since 1995 when 37 percent of the children in the district were living in poverty.

Indianapolis Public Schools had the most poor children, with 14,574. That is about 24 percent of the school-age population. In 1995, almost 33 percent of children in the city were poor.

Indianapolis Superintendent Pat Pritchett said it may seem like child poverty in Indianapolis is decreasing, but the district has more children qualifying for free or reduced lunches.

Currently, more than 80 percent of students come from families with a low enough income to qualify, Pritchett said.

"It has a devastating impact on the children," Pritchett said. "It means a lack of medical care. It means a lack of ability to do extra things like take trips to museums. Those become luxuries to a family that's struggling economically."

Free and reduced lunch numbers also factor in to distributing federal money to individual schools.

At Charity Dye Elementary, where Lively teaches, more than 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Educators there say poor students can do just as well as wealthy ones. The U.S. Department of Education named the school a national Blue Ribbon School award winner for its academic improvement on the ISTEP test and student attendance.

Principal Doris Thompson said income level doesn't matter if children want to succeed.

"It's an excuse," she said. "We've pushed past that and gone on."

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