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New Report: S. Dak. Child Poverty Numbers Increasing

January 12, 2009

Washington, DC - The number of children living in poverty has increased dramatically across the country, even before the current recession, according to findings released by The Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a nonprofit child advocacy group. This compilation of the most recent and reliable state-by-state and national key child data shows nearly 500,000 more kids were poor in 2008, totalling 13 million, with almost six million of them living in extreme poverty.

CDF spokesman Ed Shelleby says the report, "State of America's Children 2008," shows the nation has a problem with its priorities when $700 billion can be earmarked for banks while funding for education and health care coverage for children is held back. He says that, in South Dakota alone, more than half of all Native American children are poor -- one of the highest rates in the nation.

"In South Dakota, the number of children who live in poverty is about 32,000, and the number of children who live in extreme poverty is about half that: Their family of four lives on about $10,500 a year (the federal poverty line in 2008 was $21,200). This report also shows that the number of children who are uninsured is about 9 million nationally and 18,000 in South Dakota -- that's about 8.8 percent."

Another finding in the report: Elementary school teachers in South Dakota are paid less than similar teachers in any other state, receiving a median salary of around $32,900 a year. Shelleby estimates that is about half the median salary of an elementary teacher in New York state.

He says the report also looked at reading and math achievement.

"A good snapshot is the reading and math achievement of fourth graders. In South Dakota in 2007, about 66 percent of fourth graders were not performing at grade level in reading, and about 59 percent of fourth graders were not performing at grade level in math. These are startling statistics, and they're something we're hoping the new administration and the next Congress will address. Our nation really must make an investment in our children to ensure that they have the resources to survive and thrive."

Shelleby expects the numbers to worsen this year because of the recession. He says an investment in children now will be key to the nation's economic recovery and competitiveness in the global economy in years to come.

David Law, Public News Service - SD