Study: State’s child poverty rate rising

Colorado tied New Hampshire for the biggest increase in child poverty in the nation between 2000 and 2008, according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Fifteen percent of Colorado children lived in a home with a family income at or below the poverty line in 2008, up 50 percent from 2000.

The foundation’s Kids Count study, released Tuesday, uses 10 factors to rank the wellbeing of children in different states. Colorado ranked 20th overall and came in below the national average in six of the categories, including percent of children living in poverty, which is 18 percent nationwide.

The statewide change in child poverty rates has been felt locally. In fall 2009, School District 51 recorded its biggest year-over-year leap in the percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals in at least 15 years, according to District 51 Food Service Director Dan Sharp.

“Typically we’re in the mid- to high-30s. For us to bump up to 45 percent last year, that’s a pretty substantial increase,” Sharp said.

Nearly 39 percent of District 51 students received free or reduced meals in fall 2008. Students are eligible for free meals if their household income is at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

Reduced price breakfasts and lunches are available for students with a household income at or below 185 percent of the poverty level.

Kids Count showed Colorado had some data to celebrate as well, including decreases in infant, child and teen mortality and the rate of teens giving birth in 2007 compared to 2000. The state also decreased the percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not in high school that didn’t have a GED or high school diploma, dropping from 11 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2008.

School District 51 matched the state with a 3.6 percent dropout rate in the 2008-09 school year, according to data from the Colorado Department of Education. The class of 2009 had a completion rate of 79 percent in School District 51 and 79.2 percent statewide, according to the CDE. The completion rate includes high school seniors that graduated high school with a diploma last spring or earned a high-school-equivalency degree.


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