Rate of Uninsured Children on the Decline

An April 2014 report from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) at School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota contains encouraging news on the impact of programs, such as Medicaid and CHIP, designed to reduce the number of uninsured children.   Between the years of 2008 and 2012, the rate of uninsured children in the United States dropped from 9.7% to 7.5%, according to data reported in SHADAC’s  State-Level Trends in Children’s Health Insurance Coverage. This national trend was mirrored in the 35 states that also reported significant declines in uninsured children during the same time period, with Oregon, Florida, Mississippi and Delaware experiencing the largest reductions.  Additional findings at the national level:

  • The percentage of privately insured low-and-middle-income children declined
  • Hispanic children experienced the largest gains in insurance coverage, yet in 2012 remained the largest group of uninsured persons (12.7%) under age 18
  • The gap between low-income and high-income children’s likelihood of insurance coverage is shrinking

In Pennsylvania, the rate of uninsured children declined from 6% in 2008 to 5% in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Report Citation: Sonier, J., Fried, B. 2014. “State-Level Trends in Childrens’ Health Insurance Coverage.” Minneapolis, MN: State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

School Budget Cuts Become Reality as Students Return

 

As we approach the start of another school year, students in Pennsylvania may find themselves returning to fewer elective classes (even in math science and English), increased class sizes, old textbooks, suspension of field trips, and fewer teachers and staff due to furloughs and hiring freezes. These intended changes, from a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, also include, 22 percent of districts cutting tutoring programs for students (just under a third – 32 percent – did the same for the 2012-13 school year), and 13 percent of districts ending summer school programs for 2013-14, as did 21 percent last year.

While the enormous impact of the recession prompted serious budgetary reviews, from the dinner table to the halls of the State Capitol, the reduction in education funding has hit urban schools first, and worst.   While fingers point at various “causes of the problem” and some argue the problem doesn’t exist but for mismanagement,  the financial shortfall, at least in urban Pennsylvania schools, appears to be a mixture of shrinking tax bases, shrinking enrollment, ever-increasing per-pupil spending, and bureaucratic administrations, coupled with reductions in funding from the Commonwealth.  Still, cutting programs (like tutoring) that are designed to help struggling students seems to only contribute to the achievement gap that already exists between schools  in poorer areas and their more affluent counterparts.

The report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward by Richard J. Coley of Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker, examines the connection between poverty and life outcomes, including success in education and future employment.  The researchers note the academic achievement gap is larger between poor and not poor than between races, with those living in extreme poverty lagging most behind peers in cognitive performance.  Poverty is also associated with outcomes of less schooling, lower income, and higher likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system.   The impact of poverty on educational quality is illustrated in the brief, The Impact of Teacher Experience, Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications by Jennifer King Rice, through a discussion of data that indicate high-poverty schools have teachers with the least experience and, according to some studies, a lower level of effectiveness.  A National Center on Educational Evaluation brief reports that, overall, poorer students had unequal access to the highest quality teachers (although the study on just 10 districts is not generalizable).

Lest one think such relationships have little bearing on their local schools, the issue of poverty and education is no longer just a concern for city residents as the 2000’s saw a shift in the distribution of families living below the poverty line.  Suburbs are the fastest growing pockets of poverty in the country, according to the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube. Over the last decade, the population of poor in the suburbs grew by 64 percent and at a brisker pace than in many of their regional cities.  According to Kneebone and Berube, there are more poor people living in the suburbs now than anywhere else in America.

This past year, school districts – urban and suburban – have dealt with budget issues by challenging mandates that limited the number of students to teachers in a classroom, removing access to or increasing participation fees for extracurricular activities, and reducing the number of available courses.  A cursory read of the trends in income, funding steams and predicted economic growth suggests that even the more affluent districts won’t be able to escape the experience of severe budget cuts and need for increased tax revenues for too much longer.

 

 

The Complex and Lasting Impact of Community Violence

For over a decade The Urban Institute has tracked the long term impacts for families relocated by the Chicago Housing Authority to make way for their removal of public housing complexes throughout the city. The relocated residents report better housing and neighborhood quality since the move.  For youth however, the improved living environment does not appear to have had a transformative effect on their lives.

According to the brief, Chronic Violence: Beyond the Developments, follow-up data from 2011 indicate that children in the new housing (voucher-enabled private rentals or refurbished public housing) were not attending higher quality schools and were still living in neighborhoods with nearly half of the residents below the poverty line. Parental reports of negative behavior and delinquent activity were similar to the baseline data of youth in the public housing complexes.  In addition, academic performance remained a concern, with approximately 33 percent of the teenagers not in the appropriate grade for their age and about 66 percent unengaged in school or work activities.

Authors Chantal Hailey and Megan Gallagher discuss the presence and patterns of neighborhood violence as a continuing factor risk factor in the lives of these families, even after relocation, specifically the impact it has upon youth in the form of continued exposure to trauma, a nomadic lifestyle, and avoidance or isolation.  The researchers at The Urban Institute recommend intensive case management services for the relocated families in Chicago, with the hope that such intervention would improve future outcomes.

The impact of neighborhood violence on youth can be devastating, both in perceived and actual threats of physical harm, the psychological toll of anxiety, and the impact of traumatic events on a child’s development. It should be noted that research identified similar problems for youth in “rough” neighborhoods from a sample that included families above the poverty line.  Addressing the long-lasting impacts of community violence in a meaningful manner is challenging as both the context of the violence witnessed and gender differences in coping techniques may lessen responsiveness to standardized interventions “proven” in another city.  The mixed perception of the outside “experts” (school officials, teachers, social workers, counselors, police, etc.) by community members may also serve as a obstacle in forming a partnership to reduce youth and adult violence.  There is not a single policy nor intervention that will be able to  neutralize or remove every risk factor, but based on the results of various initiatives across the country,  a combination of behavioral interventions and police strategies may prove effective going forward.

Federal Poverty Programs – What is Covered? What is at Risk?

Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution is interviewed by Gigi Hinton in a recent @ Brookings podcast on what the non-decision by the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or “super committee”) means to the nation’s poor.

In the clip below from the @ Brookings Podcast of December 30, 2011, Mr. Haskins details what programs Congress has built protections for, what programs are at risk for cuts, and the level of partisanship around funding decisions for poverty programs (his impression may surprise some).


Original Source: @ BROOKINGS VIDEO PODCAST | # 143 Automatic Spending Cuts and Programs for the Poor