...Indiana children felt the effects of the recession in its earliest stages, with more than a third eligible for free or reduced-price lunches this year.
The 2008 Kids Count in Indiana Data Book released today by the Indiana Youth Institute showed the percentage of K-12 students in Indiana eligible for free lunches and text books rose to 29.7 percent this year and those eligible for reduced-price lunches rose to 8.0 percent.The report further highlights the overall financial crisis for working people that I discuss in my prior posting. The statistics on children receiving help are staggering in their implications for the struggles of working people in Indiana today, but continue a trend that tracks the growing inequality in the distribution of wealth. As reported in the article:
The latest percentage of children living in households so needy that they qualify to receive free lunches and text books was a full 1.5 percentage points higher than the 28.2 percent eligible in 2007 and compared with 25.8 percent as recently as 2004. The percentages have risen steadily each year in that span.
The statistics continue, addressing county by county disparities and looking at the next tier up on the economic scale, children who are eligible for partial support for lunches.
County-level data provided by the institute showed more than half of the schoolchildren in two counties, Marion and Fayette, qualified for free textbooks and lunches or reduced-price lunches. Marion, which includes Indianapolis, is the state's most populous county. Fayette County, in east central Indiana, has been hit hard by manufacturing layoffs.
Another county, Grant, also hit by manufacturing layoffs, had 49.9 percent of schoolkids qualify for the subsidized lunches.
Only one county, Hamilton in Indianapolis' affluent northern suburbs, had fewer than 10 percent of schoolchildren qualify for free lunches and textbooks, with 7.6 percent eligible.
The percentage of students eligible for reduced-price lunches rose slightly to 8.0 percent this year from 7.9 percent last year.
Among the other indicators in the report:
-- The percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty rose to 16.6 percent -- about one in six statewide -- in 2005, the most recent year for which data was available.
-- The number of children enrolled in the Hoosier Healthwise state medical plan for low-income children rose by nearly 9,000 children from 2006 to 2007 and has more than doubled since 2000.
The rate of child abuse and neglect cases per 1,000 children under age 18 fell nearly 10 percent to 11.9 percent in 2007 from 13 percent in 2006.
There is no doubt that the working people of Indiana are being hit hard by this recession. We need to work together, to unite, to win union jobs at living wages, and support all unionization efforts. We further need to demand that government services be expanded in this time of crisis and need, not contracted to achieve fake goals of "fiscal responsibility" or a "balanced budget". Its time to put people before accounting, and stop playing games with the lives of the working families of Indiana.