A true sign of the economic times

Of all the statistics that have been thrown about in the economic downturn, from falling rig counts to falling employment numbers, there is one number that stands out.

That 45 percent of the 21,000 students enrolled in School District 51 are eligible for free-or-reduced cost lunch program is a stunning, and disturbing, statistic.

Even worse, it seems to be a trend.

As Daily Sentinel reporter Emily Anderson found out, the number of students who are eligible for the program has been on a steady increase, from 31 percent in 2006 to the 45 percent in 2009.

The economic boom times of 2007 and 2008 made a little dent in the number. There were 39 percent and 38 percent of students on the program during those years, respectively.

We’re not certain what the cause is, nor are we eager to advance a single prescription, for the issue of having more than 9,600 children from Fruita to Palisade whose family incomes qualify them for those school meals.

Clearly, the economy in general has something to do with these things and it remains to be seen whether the Grand Valley has hit the bottom of the recession.

It’s possible that the roots of the phenomenon lie in the region’s relative isolation, as well.

Grand Valley residents frequently comment that the local economy has become more diversified in recent decades. It’s also true that higher education has made great strides here.

Economic fixes, such as tax increases in some places, tax credits in others, loosened regulations on some industries and tightened ones on others, can only go so far.

We hope that this statistic, which raised our eyebrows, is doing the same elsewhere. There is clearly more than economics to this story. It might well involve the need for additional opportunities for Grand Valley residents in general.


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