12 Percent of OC School Children Living in Poverty

School LunchThe Orange County Register’s Scott Martindale reports that Poverty figures are on the rise among O.C. schoolchildren.

The number of impoverished children ages 5 to 17 jumped by 6,188 in a single year, to an estimated 67,062 now in Orange County. Meanwhile, a much larger portion of the county’s students – 43 percent – are receiving free or subsidized meals in school.

“There are a lot of very needy kids in Orange County,” said Renee Hendrick, the Orange County Department of Education’s executive director for business services. “The cost of living is much higher in Orange County (than the nation as a whole) and the needs are greater. We have a lot of students who come from homes where they don’t have regular meals.”

The report shows that the highest concentration of children living in poverty is the Magnolia Elementary School District with 20% of their 6,300 students living in in poverty. The Magnolia Elementary School District covers part of Stanton and west Anaheim.

The Santa Ana Unified School District doesn’t fare much better at 19.8 % of their 57,400 students living below the poverty line.

More than 12 percent of school-age children in Orange County are living in poverty – the highest level since 2005 – with 3.5 times that number receiving free or subsidized meals daily, according to federal poverty data released this month.

Furthermore, the 12.2 percent poverty rate among Orange County children is higher than county’s rate as a whole. The overall poverty rate in Orange County stands at 9.9 percent, up from 8.9 percent a year ago.

These statistics illustrate the realities faced by a significant number of families in Orange County. Getting help and assistance to these families is part of our collective responsibility as a society. As the state and county elected leaders seek options to address the ever growing budget shortfalls, they must understand that cuts to social services personnel make that job significantly more difficult.

Last week the Register reported Elder abuse reports skyrocket in Orange County.

There were 2,386 reports of adult abuse in Orange County in 1994. There were  nearly triple that many – 6,380 – in Orange County last year. And 2009 is on track to break records, with 21 new reports every day, or some 7,500 this year.

What that story failed to mention is that the cuts to staff serving the needs of the poor and elderly will lead to increased need and increased costs in the long-term. Short term solutions and budgetary magic tricks are just band-aids hiding a growing problem.

Here is the link to the complete OC Register story.