Number of students in poverty increases to 21% at Austin schoolsPublished 10:06am Thursday, December 13, 2012
More K-12 students in Mower County are living in poverty than before.
From 2007 to 2011, the number of children ages 5-17 in the county who were in families in poverty jumped from 12.8 percent to 18.7 percent, or from 825 to 1,280 students, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Wednesday.
“It’s been going on longer than that,” said David Krenz, superintendent with Austin Public Schools.
One of the ways the Austin Public Schools District has responded to rising poverty rates is with a year-round schedule, referred to as the 45/15 calendar, at Sumner Elementary, Krenz said.
“Reducing the summer layoff really helps students on the lower end of the socioeconomic [scale],” he said.
There are also targeted services programs to help students, including free and reduced lunches during the summer, which the district is not required to provide.
“There’s many, many things we do to address the needs of kids coming from poverty,” Krenz said.
In the district in 2011, more than 1,000 students, or about 21 percent of the total student body, were in families in poverty. That’s a higher percentage than many of the surrounding area’s school districts. Albert Lea is not far away with 17 percent, while Owatonna and Rochester have about half of what Austin does at 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Smaller districts were also lower than Austin, with LeRoy-Ostrander at 14 percent, Lyle at 13 percent, and Southland and Grand Meadow each at 9 percent.
The number of students in the free and reduced lunch program in Austin, which includes both those in the poverty range but also an income range above it, is higher than the state average. This year, 55.1 percent of the district qualifies for free or reduced lunch, while statewide that number is 37.2 percent.
As a whole, 13.6 percent of Minnesotans age 5-17 are in families of poverty, which is well below the national figure of 20.8 percent for that same age range.
“These estimates are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and are used as one of the criteria to allocate federal funds to local education agencies,” acting Census Bureau Director Thomas Mesenbourg said in a news release. “In addition, state and local programs use these estimates for distributing funds and managing school programs.”