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Report: Nearly 1 in 4 Kan. kids live in poverty

TOPEKA, Kansas - A new report by a children's advocacy group shows that nearly one in four Kansas children are living below the poverty line as the effects of the Great Recession linger.

The data released Tuesday by Kansas Action for Children finds the state's childhood poverty rate at 23.15 percent, up more than 5 percent from 2008.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of the group, says many parents are finding it difficult to land work and continue to be dependent on public assistance to provide food, shelter and pay other bills.

She says eligibility requirements for public assistance programs have meant fewer Kansas residents qualify for benefits and put more children at risk of not being healthy or safe.

Things are much worse closer to Wichita.
 
"When you look at the Wichita Public Schools and the rate of children who are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches is more than 50 percent, it's more like above 75 percent," said Teresa Rupp, Executive Director Child Start.
 
"With the economy as it has been for the past several years, more families who may only have one income or no income at all, so there are more families that qualify for free or reduced price lunch," said Susan Arensman, Wichita Public Schools.
 
Officials say the problem with poverty at a young age is the detrimental domino effect.
 
"The things that you live with before you get to school are things that continue to have an impact on your success when you get to school," said Rupp.
 
"Our future doctors, our future lawyers, our future aircraft workers, obviously you want them to have the skills that they need to be successful," said Arensman.
 
Rupp says that that if things want to get better, they'll need to start with a two-fold effort from the government.
 
One to help students in elementary schools read and two to stop the problem in its tracks.
 
"If we don't we are fighting a losing battle in third and fourth grade, we need to start winning before they get to kindergarten."
 
Officials with Wichita Public Schools say they hope to help fight the educational divide through programs encouraging early reading programs.
 
For now, it's a waiting game to see what policies will be put in place to help the children that are in need.
 

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