Re­mark about poverty in Dal­las school district pretty close to mark

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - BYW. Gard­ner Selby wgselby@states­ Poli­tifact B SEND us tips

In a re­cent opin­ion ar­ti­cle, a mem­ber of the Dal­las school board touted a break­fast-in­the-class­room pro­gram for head­ing off stu­dent hunger. The poverty level in the Dal­las In­de­pen­dent School District, said trustee Dan Mic­ci­che, “is one of the high­est in the coun­try, higher than New York, Chicago, Los An­ge­les, Hous­ton, Detroit and Ne­wark.”

We were cu­ri­ous. Is child poverty in the Dal­las school district that high?

Mic­ci­che told us his in­for- ma­tion came from a chart in a Jan­uary 2012 report on school break­fast pro­grams by the Food Re­search and Ac­tion Cen­ter, a non­profit that fo­cuses on re­duc­ing hunger among poor Amer­i­cans. The chart lists the share of stu­dents in 26 large ur­ban school dis­tricts de­ter­mined to be el­i­gi­ble for fed­er­ally sup­ported free- and re­duced-price school meals in a re­cent school year.

Stu­dents who qual­ify for the meal as­sis­tance do not have to be liv­ing be­low the fed­eral poverty level. Chil­dren from fam­i­lies with in­comes at or be­low 130 per­cent of the poverty level are el­i­gi­ble for free meals, while chil­dren from fam­i­lies with in­comes be­tween 130 per­cent and 185 per­cent of the poverty level are el­i­gi­ble for re­duced-price meals, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture fact sheet. What does that mean in ac­tual dol­lars? For the year run­ning through June 2013, 130 per­cent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a fam­ily of four; 185 per­cent is $42,643, the sheet says.

In 2010-11, the report chart in­di­cates, 88.2 per­cent of the Dal­las stu­dents were el­i­gi­ble for free- or re­duced­price meals and 83.5 per­cent for free meals — higher rates than school dis­tricts in New York, Chicago, Los An­ge­les, Hous­ton, Detroit and Ne­wark. Among all the sam­pled dis- tricts, the Mem­phis and Ok­la­homa City dis­tricts had greater shares of stu­dents el­i­gi­ble for free- or re­duced-price meals than the Dal­las district.

We looked at sim­i­lar data com­piled in 2010-11 by the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion on its Ele­men­tary/Sec­ondary In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem. Re­sult­ing per­cent­ages var­ied, some­times con­sid­er­ably, from the sur­vey re­sults cited by Mic­ci­che. The Dal­las and Ne­wark dis­tricts had the great­est share of stu­dents el­i­gi­ble for the pro­grams, about 87 per­cent to­tal, fol­lowed by the Detroit district, at 80 per­cent. The Ne­wark district had a much Spot­ted a ques­tion­able state­ment by a Texas po­lit­i­cal fig­ure or about Texas pol­i­tics? We’d like to hear about it. Send it to us at poli­tifact@ states­man. com or 512445-3644.

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