Janesville9.5°

Numbers of low-income students up again in Janesville

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 15, 2007
— More than a third of Janesville public school students now are receiving free or reduced-price lunches, the district reported this week.

The statistic reflects a steady increase in low-income families in the district over the last 12 years.


A family of two qualifies for the federal free lunch program with an annual income of $17,797 or less. The same family qualifies for reduced-price lunch with an income of $25,327 or less.


Children from a family of three qualify for free lunch at $22,321 or less. For a family of four, itís $26,845.


A total of 2,904 Janesville public school students are receiving free lunch, and another 572 get the reduced-price lunch, according to a district report. That adds up to 3,476 students, or 34 percent of the districtís enrollment.


Officials say the statistics donít reflect every family that could qualify. Some, especially in the higher grades, do not apply for the lunch program.


Ten years ago, 15.5 percent of district students received free or reduced-price lunch.


The percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch increased at every school in the district this year.


Marge Hallenbeck, coordinator of student services, said the district didnít do anything out of the ordinary to encourage participation in the lunch program.


ďI think the trend is pretty national, from what Iíve been reading,Ē Hallenbeck said.


Wilson School went from 89 percent two years ago to 69 percent last year to 99.4 percent this year.


Harrison School, which had less than 5 percent on the lunch program 10 years ago, now shows 18 percent.


Low-priced lunches

Hereís the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches in Janesville public schools this fall.


School Percent


Wilson 99.4


Madison 56.5


Jackson 56.25


Lincoln 48.24


Jefferson 47.36


Adams 43.5


Edison 41.2


Franklin 40.17


Washington 38.63


Kennedy 38.32


Roosevelt 36.1


Parker 26.27


Marshall 24.66


Monroe 24.3


Van Buren 21.94


Craig 18.98


Harrison 18.21


Helping solve the problem

Fighting poverty has a lot to do with creating a national will to do something about the problem, said DeWayne Street. Here are ways he recommends people get into the fight:


-- Acknowledge the impact of poverty in the lives of children.


-- Donít judge poor people as a group.


-- No matter your political affiliation, support legislation that would alleviate the suffering of poor children.


-- Advocate a nationwide system to enforce the payment of child support. Street quoted an estimate that payment of all child support would reduce the poverty rate by 75 percent. Street said he knows of parents who live in Illinois in order to avoid paying child support for their Wisconsin children.


-- Realize that many common beliefs about poor people are wrong. They have dreams for their children, just like everybody else. They can succeed in school at the same levels as the middle class. Most of them, in this country, are white.


-- For teachers: Troubled, poor kids need to know that you care. Realize how different their lives are from your own, but donít expect less from them.


View a full report on free and reduced lunch in Janesville schools [PDF]

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