County poverty rates decrease

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 3:12 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 3:22 p.m. CDT

The Census Bureau recently released the 2011 poverty estimates for every school district and county in the nation. Data for Bureau County showed 17.1 percent of all children under 18 living in families in poverty. That statistic is a decrease from last year, when almost 19 percent of children were living in poverty.

The estimates, produced for the U.S. Department of Education and part of the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program, provide income and poverty information for each of the nation’s 3,140 counties and the nearly 14,000 school districts that qualify for federal Title I funding, which is aimed at improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students.

SAIPE combines the latest data from the American Community Survey with aggregate data from federal tax filings, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation, statistics from the 2000 and 2010 censuses and annual population estimates.

The report estimates that 3,653 residents of all ages in Bureau County, or 10.7 percent, live in poverty. That’s a decrease increase from last year, which estimated 4,378 county residents lived in poverty, or 12.8 percent.

The percentage rate climbs to 17.1 percent among families with children, down from last year’s 18.9; and 15.1 percent of all school-aged children, down from last year’s 16.9.

Percentages varied widely across the county, from a low of 7.7 percent in Cherry to 29.3 in the Ohio High School District. They also showed significant swings from the previous year’s figures.

The 2011 national estimates also showed that 923 counties had school-age poverty rates significantly above and 909 significantly below the national poverty rate of 21 percent.

In Bureau County, the two Ohio districts were the only school districts above the national poverty rate.

The federal government, as well as state and local programs use the estimates for distributing funds and managing school programs, which can cause a problem for school districts, which work with numbers that are much higher, in terms of the number of students eligible for free or reduced lunches.

In the now-closed Leepertown School District last year, 70 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced lunches, but SAIPE showed Leepertown with less than a 15 percent poverty rate.

Why?

According to Regional Superintendent of Schools Angie Zarvell, the census uses different ways of measuring poverty and the guidelines aren’t the same. For example, the low income rates on the Illinois Report Card are based on the number of students who receive free and reduced lunch.

Zarvell said former Leepertown Superintendent Amber Harper would complain to her about the discrepancy, which resulted in significantly lower federal funds for Title 1 and summer grant-based programs.

Zarvell said local districts primarily receive federal funding in the form of Title 1. Most area schools receive the largest part of their funding from local taxpayers, with general state aid picking up most of the difference.

For the 2010-11 school year, federal funds only made up 10 percent of the funding in Illinois schools.

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