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New report looks at poverty in Nebraska's schools

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By: Jenn Schanz

It's 100 pages detailing the health, education, and economic stability of Nebraskan children. The numbers in the Kids Count In Nebraska report show several shortcomings, and they all center around child poverty.

"Poverty is systemic," says Chrissy Tonkinson, Research Coordinator at Voices for Children in Nebraska.

"If you're born into poverty you have very little chance of getting out of poverty. We're seeing that kids are really missing the mark on testing, reading, and math at grade level."

According to the report, less than 40 percent of Nebraska kids are proficient in math and reading. And course, that number is even lower for low-income students.

President of Cedars Youth Services Jim Blue works specifically with low income children and families. He hopes the report will draw attention to the need for more funding of social services that low-income kids depend on.

"We're seeing about double the number of homeless and runaway kids in our emergency shelter from what we've seen just a year ago," he says.

"What we have been getting from the state of Nebraska is 'It's not our problem, it's a problem of the communities.' What I think we don't realize is it's a partnership."

According to the report, 1 in 5 kids in Nebraska are living in poverty.

Child development advocates say making sure kids have access to affordable, early education programs is key if we want to see that number go down.

Voices For Children In Nebraska, the group that compiled the report, says increasing school breakfast programs, and affordable child care are important tools than can help offset the struggles of child poverty.

They're planning to deliver a copy of the report to every state senator at the Capitol.

Sen. Bill Avery introduced legislation Monday (LB834) that would create a grant program to help schools expand participation in federal school breakfast programs. 

Voices For Children in Nebraska says they're also anticipating legislation aimed at providing incentives for more affordable child care to be introduced this legislative session. 

A unique aspect of this year's Kids Count in Nebraska Report is a look at the Cornhusker state in 2050. According to data, Nebraska is getting older; by 2050, 21 percent of the population will be over 65. 

The state will also be more diverse, the percentage of people of color will double by 2050.

Nebraska will also look more urban. More than half of the state's population lives in Douglas, Sarpy, and Lancaster counties. That rate is expected to continue to grow.

The report also expects an increase in a variation of family types. The number of non-married families and single parent households is on the rise. 

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