Poverty Strikes Children Hardest

As cities, counties, and states struggle to balance their budgets, more budget cuts are soon to come due to federal deficit deal. These cuts do not “share the pain” as the Republicans are prone to saying. Instead, these cuts strike at the programs and policies that allow children of lesser incomes to find their way out of poverty and into better lives. Programs that depended upon State and Federal assistance programs are cut or phased out completely.

In 2009, 31 million kids were living in families with incomes below twice the federal poverty threshold.

That totals out to 42% of the nation’s children who are one or two paychecks from Mom or Dad away from catastrophe and probable homelessness. The current recession has not helped matters improve. Instead, we find that more and more children are at risk of becoming impoverished through no fault of their own. Patrick McCarthy, the CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that collects statistical information on children and their progress through life based on need, released this statistic as part of his “Kids Count” study. Mr. McCarthy stated:

“Recent research shows that children who slip into poverty have a tougher time, rougher time to complete school,” he said. “They are more likely to be held back, less likely to be employed. That’s something you see in research of the last four recessions (not counting the most recent one) — even controlling for where kids started out in a better socioeconomic level — those who slipped out of their income level fell educationally.”

Budget cuts in Pennsylvania have hit the poorest schools the hardest this year. The poorest schools are cutting the most teachers and the most services, according to Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

Poorer school districts typically draw a higher proportion of their budgets from state aid, based on formulas designed to help provide an equal education to all students and help close the funding gap between what wealthier districts and poorer districts can collect from local taxes.

The cuts largely were levied based on the same formula.

Here in Wisconsin, expanded tax credits and food assistance benefits offset the drop in cash earnings and wages, keeping the poverty index from rising more than 1%. Still, child poverty is higher than poverty in any other age group, coming in at a whopping 13.4%. These tax credits and food benefits were cut in the Walker “Balanced Budget” , leaving one to believe that statistic can only rise.

It is readily apparent that the children are unable to make a change in their financial status. Too young to get a job, too young to vote for better legislation, and too poor to find their way out of this economic grind. We need to keep these children in mind when we consider tax levies and opportunities for the children. They will grow up to adulthood, and with no way out of poverty, we could be dis-enabling an entire generation.

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