The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual estimate of child poverty on Wednesday and the numbers show that ever since the start of the economic bust in 2007 child poverty has been on the rise both nationally and locally.
, and school districts have each seen a steady rise since 2007, while wealthy has had virtually no child poverty for the past five years. also has had a consistently low child poverty rate.
Rising poverty in most of the local districts may lead to a rise in state and federal aid for education, but as Albany and D.C. look to tighten their belts in 2011 that aid may dry up.Children 5-17 Who Belong to Families in Poverty, by Region and Year
2009United States 17.0% 16.7% 16.4% 16.5% 18.2% New York 18.6% 19.0% 18.3% 18.3% 18.8% Suffolk County 6.0% 8.0% 5.7% 6.0% 7.0% Southampton 6.1% 8.2% 5.9% 6.2% 7.3% Tuckahoe 7.5% 12.4% 7.3% 9.8% 10.7% Bridgehampton 9.1% 12.2% 8.8% 9.1% 11.3% Sagaponack 0.0% 4.3% 2.2% 4.2% 0.0% Sag Harbor 3.1% 4.8% 2.4% 2.1% 3.0% *2006 may have seen a spike due to changes in the method of calculation.
Southampton School District Superintendent J. Richard Boyes said Monday that the only numbers that drive his schools' aid are from the decennial U.S. Census. The 2010 Census figures are due to be released Dec. 21.
"That will be a big one," Boyes said. "Even though we get yearly information, there is a lag time in how it affects our aid."
Southampton's child poverty rate reached 7.3 percent in 2009, up from 5.9 percent two years earlier.
The district has seen an influx over the past several years of students from immigrant families, especially in prekindergarten and kindergarten, according to Boyes. He said immigrant families have been especially hit hard by the recession, contributing to Southampton's growing child poverty rate.
The rise in child poverty locally results in the school district paying to provide more services to students, including English as a Second Language classes and free and reduced price lunch, the superintendent said. "Currently, I think we're pretty well staffed to do that," he said, adding that the school social workers are also keyed in to families who have lost jobs.
Southampton School District food and nutrition manager Regan Kiembock said Tuesday that 27 percent of Southampton students receive free or reduced price lunch. "When I came here 10 years ago we were at 14 or 15 percent," she said. "So we have seen a gradual increase."
The district receives $2.72 per lunch from the federal government for a free lunch and $2.32 for a reduced price lunch, Kiembock said. New York State gives slightly less than 6 cents per free lunch, and 19 and a half cents per reduced lunch. However, Kiembock said the state has been withholding lunch aid due to its own budget problems.
A typical lunch costs between $3 and $3.25, Kiembock noted, which leaves a portion of the cost in the school district's hands.
Sag Harbor Superintendent John Gratto said that about 2 percent of the Sag Harbor student body receives free or reduced lunch, though he said he believes the percentage of eligible students is actually higher.
"People are prideful that they qualify for the free student lunch program. I've seen this throughout every school district I've been in," he said. "There's embarrassment about it." He noted that there are safeguards to protect the confidentially of a family's financial status, such as a discreet button students receiving free lunch press while on the lunch line.
Sag Harbor's child poverty rate for 2009 is 3.0 percent, up only slightly from its 2007 level of 2.4 percent.
Dr. Gratto said he is not exactly sure why the poverty rate in is lower than elsewhere on the South Fork, other than local demographics.
According to the State Department of Education Report Card for 2009, the school district was 83 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 2 percent black or African American.
In , where the child poverty rate reached 11.3 percent in 2009, Superintendent Lois Favre said in an e-mail Monday that her district has seen an increase in enrollment for its free and reduced lunch program, "indicating that there are more of our families struggling in this economy."
When it comes to federal aid for education, Favre said Bridgehampton has never received enough money to have a significant impact on teaching and learning.
"Federal aid for poverty usually comes to us in the form of Title I funding, which, despite the raise in poverty levels, has been diminishing in recent years," she said.
In fiscal year 2010, Bridgehampton was allocated $31,114 under Title I, a federal program that distributes money to school districts based on poverty estimates and the local cost of education. The year prior, Bridgehampton received $35,443 plus an additional $9,890 under the federal economic stimulus plan.
Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said Wednesday that his district's Title I funding is low as well. In 2009, Tuckahoe received $36,197 in Title I aid and $16,023 in stimulus money. The Title I aid rose to $45,485 in 2010, but there was no stimulus for school districts that fiscal year.
The child poverty rate in Tuckahoe grew from 7.3 percent in 2007 to 10.7 percent in 2009. Dyer said he has seen the poverty rate's effect on the free and reduced lunch program. About 77 children are enrolled in the lunch program and 45 to 55 children are enrolled in the free breakfast program out of 360 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, he said.
The district, through a community liason, has been reaching out to parents of children in the lunch program to sign up for free breakfast as well, Dyer said, noting that the effort has tripled participation in the breakfast program.
"The key to it is: A child who's well nourished learns better," he said. "If we can fuel the engines before the day starts, they are much more eager because they feel better."
Dyer said that Tuckahoe is a very generous community with a charitable spirit that, with poverty on the rise, will step up and donate in the school's food drives, clothing drives and more.
The 2009 child poverty estimates for school districts were based on poverty tabulations from the 2000 Census and on 2008 tax returns. They also considered the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) for Suffolk County in 2009.
"SAIPE combines the latest American Community Survey (ACS) data with aggregate data from federal tax information, administrative records on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation, 2000 Census statistics and annual population estimates," the Census explains on its website.
The school district poverty estimates are provided to the U.S. Department of Education to implement provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Census. The data also are used as one of the criteria for allocating federal funds to local school districts, and state and local programs may use the data as well.
The new Census report on child poverty only included children between the ages of 5 and 17, and it considered the federal poverty threshold for 2009. For a family of two adults and two children, the income threshold was $21,756, down $78 from 2008. Typically, the threshold rises each year, but it dipped in 2009 because the Consumer Price Index was lower, according to the Census.