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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Gov. Whitmer endorses Kamala Harris for president, says she's not leaving Michigan; Grilled by lawmakers on the Trump assassination attempt, Secret Service director says, 'We failed;' Teachers rally at national convention in Houston; Opioid settlement fund fuels anti-addiction battle in Indiana; Nonprofit agency says corporate donations keep programs going.

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Democrats consolidate support behind Vice President Harris, Republicans threaten legal action over changes to the presidential ticket, and a possible bipartisan consensus forms on the failure of the Secret Service to protect former President Trump.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Fewer ME kids living in poverty but education problems grow

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024   

The economic well-being of kids in Maine is improving, but chronic school absence is impacting learning, according to a new report.

The 2024 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows fewer children living in poverty. But the number of high school students not graduating on time has slightly increased, and the number of eighth-grade students lacking math proficiency has jumped to 76%.

Melissa Hackett, policy associate with Maine Children's Alliance, said post-pandemic trauma and learning loss remain a challenge.

"We know families are experiencing a lot of stressors at home and that makes it more challenging for young people to show up at school ready to learn," she said.

Hackett added she'd like to see greater state investment in community schools, which often have additional capacity to serve as a hub for student and family services - helping ensure basic needs are met so families can thrive.

Indicators for families and communities in Maine are improving, with fewer children living in single-parent households and more parents finding secure employment. Still, Hackett contended schools and families need to find non-punitive ways to ensure kids are in the classroom.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said rates of chronic absenteeism among students are nearly double pre-pandemic rates.

"Their test scores tend to be lower, they tend to be more likely to be suspended and less likely to complete school on time. It also affects the overall atmosphere of the classroom as the teacher is always working to catch students up," she noted.

Studies show students who don't advance beyond lower levels of math may be 50% more likely to be unemployed after high school.

Boissiere added the state can increase investment in its students with unspent federal pandemic money, and said ensuring students access to low-or-no-cost meals, in-person tutoring and mental health services will go a long way in helping to boost achievement.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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