Rural Poverty – Oklahoma

Rural poverty: ‘A way of life’ for numerous Oklahomans, By Michael Overall, August 8, 2016, Tulsa World: “With no air conditioning on a brutally hot summer afternoon, 19-year-old Breeze Bunch is sitting on the front porch with a half-empty Pepsi and a bottle of sunscreen.  ‘Why don’t you go splash in the water?’ Bunch tells her 2-year-old daughter, who waddles off toward an inflatable kiddie pool under a shade tree beside the house.
Sharing a clapboard house with her boyfriend’s family, Bunch lives on a dead-end street north of downtown in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Oklahoma. This isn’t Tulsa or Oklahoma City, or even Muskogee or Lawton. A five-minute walk could put Bunch in the middle of a cow pasture…”

Child Care Subsidies – Oklahoma

DHS lifts freeze on child-care subsidies, By Ginnie Graham, July 1, 2016, Tulsa World: “After reviewing next year’s budget, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have decided to lift the freeze on child-care subsidies starting Friday. The original date to resume applications was to be Aug. 15, but DHS Director Ed Lake said many schools districts are opening enrollment earlier and subsidies will be needed.  As reported in the Tulsa World on Tuesday, the program had stopped taking new clients after the worsening state revenue failure showed it would run out of money. It is funded through a combination of the federal Child Care Development grant and state matching funds…”

Medicaid Expansion – Oklahoma

In surprising turnabout, Oklahoma eyes Medicaid expansion, By Sean Murray (AP), May 16, 2016, The Oklahoman: “Despite bitter resistance in Oklahoma for years to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, Republican leaders in this conservative state are now confronting something that alarms them even more: a huge $1.3 billion hole in the budget that threatens to do widespread damage to the state’s health care system.  So, in what would be the grandest about-face among rightward leaning states, Oklahoma is now moving toward a plan to expand its Medicaid program to bring in billions of federal dollars from Obama’s new health care system.  What’s more, GOP leaders are considering a tax hike to cover the state’s share of the costs…”

State Minimum Wage – Oklahoma

Minimum wage increase by other states puts spotlight on Oklahoma law, By Cary Aspinwall and Curtis Killman, November 10, 2014, Tulsa World: “Lori Pearson spent a year working at Whataburger before leaving a few months ago to take a job cleaning clothes at Blue Monday Coin Laundry and Dry Cleaners. Both jobs in Tulsa were for minimum wage. Neither one came with insurance or benefits, she said, while sorting customers’ soiled laundry. ‘I love my job, I really do,’ Pearson said. ‘I have a wonderful boss. But it would be nice to get paid more than minimum wage.’ Voters in four states this past Tuesday approved increases of their minimum wage, including neighboring Arkansas. With Tuesday’s votes, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota joined 24 others plus the District of Columbia that have raised their state minimum wages beyond the federal minimum wage. Voters in Alaska, where the minimum wage rate already exceeded the federal minimum, also approved a measure Tuesday to increase the rate from $7.75 an hour to $9.75 an hour by 2016. But Oklahoma is holding steady at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Earlier this year, the state even passed a law forbidding any of its cities or counties from increasing the minimum wage beyond the federal minimum wage…”

Foster Care System – Oklahoma

Report: DHS faltering in progress in foster care services, By Ginnie Graham, October 16, 2014, Tulsa World: “The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has not made a ‘good faith effort’ at attracting new foster homes, bringing down worker caseloads, reducing shelter use for children older than 6, staffing the hotline and finding permanent homes for foster children, according to a report issued Wednesday by an independent oversight panel. The report is the third commentary on the improvement plan, referred to as the Pinnacle Plan. It is the agreement made to settle a federal class-action lawsuit in 2012 filed four years earlier by the nonprofit group Children’s Rights…”

Promise Zones

Programs target poverty in Obama’s 5 ‘Promise Zones’, By NPR Staff, July 6, 2014, NPR: Five areas across the country have been designated as ‘Promise Zones’ by the federal government. These zones, announced by President Obama in January, are intended to tackle poverty by focusing on individual urban neighborhoods and rural areas. In the five Promise Zones — located in Philadelphia, San Antonio, southeastern Kentucky, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Los Angeles — the idea is to basically carpet-bomb the neighborhoods with programs like after-school classes, GED courses and job training to turn those areas around. . .”

Foster Care System – Oklahoma

Oklahoma struggles to handle rise in emergency foster care needs, By Ginnie Graham, March 31, 2014, Tulsa World: “There is plenty of blame to go around as Oklahoma struggles to understand why a significant number of children have entered foster care in the past two years. To improve the rate, social workers need to spend more individually tailored time with families. Judges and district attorneys need to trust the safety plans available to build family relationships, according to a 44-page analysis by the Casey Family Programs. Also, substance abuse is playing a significant role, and the causes of the foster-care growth ‘are complex and stretch beyond the boundaries of DHS.’ The Oklahoma Department of Human Services requested an independent look at the state’s 33 percent jump in children taken into custody due to abuse and neglect since the summer of 2012. The agency has requested $33 million in supplemental funding to handle foster care needs through the end of the fiscal year…”

State Poverty Rates – Missouri, Oklahoma

  • Report: 1 in 4 Missouri kids lives in poverty, By Kris Hilgedick, January 16, 2014, News Tribune: “More Missourians are slipping into poverty every year, a coalition of activists said Wednesday. The rate of poverty in Missouri has risen steadily over the past few years, up from 13.4 percent in 2008 to 16.2 percent today. Nearly one in every four children lives in poverty in the Show-Me State. ‘An increase of 3 percent is not huge, but it’s 179,000 more people,’ said Jessica Long, spokesperson for the Missouri Association for Community Action Inc., based in Jefferson City. ‘It’s more than the populations of Jefferson City and Columbia combined.’ Members of the Missourians to End Poverty coalition gathered in a Capitol hearing room on Wednesday morning to release their 2014 state-of-the-state report. The report revealed that out of the more than 6 million people living in the state, 947,792 of them live at or below the federal poverty level. More than 400,000 residents live in extreme poverty…”
  • Poverty rate in St. Louis County, city up from previous years, By Alex Stuckey, January 16, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “As poverty rates increase in Missouri and St. Louis County, a statewide coalition is bringing the numbers to light and calling for action. The Missourians to End Poverty coalition released a report Wednesday showing that poverty was up in the St. Louis area and statewide. In St. Louis County, 12.1 percent of the population was impoverished in 2012, up from 11.9 percent the previous year, according to the report. In the city of St. Louis, 29.3 percent of residents were impoverished, an increase from the 2011 figure of 27.2 percent…”
  • Oklahoma Watch: Poverty declines in Oklahoma, but disturbing trends persist, By Warren Vieth, January 11, 2014, The Oklahoman: “Go to any public place in Oklahoma with a broad cross-section of people and take a look around. Every sixth Oklahoman you see, on average, will be officially poor. That’s a big improvement over 50 years ago, when the average was closer to one in three. Much of the progress came during the decade following President Lyndon Johnson’s Jan. 8, 1964, promise to wage an ‘unconditional’ war on poverty. Congress followed up by expanding Social Security and food stamps and launching programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and Job Corps…”

State Medicaid Programs – Kentucky, Oklahoma

  • Kentucky’s embrace of private Medicaid plans leads to complaints, By Jenni Bergal, July 13, 2013, Washington Post: “Kaden Stone loves playing baseball, riding his bike and watching ‘Duck Dynasty’ on TV at his red-brick ranch-style house in rural, south-central Kentucky. Despite his energy, the tiny boy of 8 with a crew cut and missing front tooth can’t eat much, the result of congenital bowel problems that have required dozens of surgeries and procedures. He needs PediaSure, says his mother, who was shocked when Kaden’s Medicaid managed-care plan stopped paying last fall for the expensive nutritional drink, saying it was not ‘medically necessary…'”
  • Alternate health insurance plan for poor could cost more than Medicaid expansion, By Wayne Greene, July 14, 2013, Tulsa World: “One of the toughest tasks before advocates of a plan to use federal and state money to purchase private insurance coverage for poor Oklahomans will be convincing legislative skeptics – and the federal government – that it won’t cost more than expanding Medicaid. Last month, Leavitt Partners presented a report to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority for several changes, including a private insurance subsidy plan…”

Academic Achievement and Income – Oklahoma

Oklahoma Watch: Low-income students likely to be retained at highest rate, By Chase Cook, March 30, 2013, The Oklahoman: “Among thousands of Oklahoma students who could be held back in third grade for failing a state reading test next year, a disproportionate share likely will be low-income children, an Oklahoma Watch analysis of state data found. An analysis of state test data from spring 2012 found that elementary schools with higher rates of low-income students had greater shares of third-graders who scored poorly on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test for reading. Starting in spring 2014, under the Reading Sufficiency Act, third-graders who score at the lowest level on the test, unsatisfactory, will have to repeat third grade unless they get an exemption or improve to grade level by the fall. The possibility that many of the students held back will come from low-income families raises fears among some educators that these children in particular will suffer negative effects from retention. Research over decades has found that retention can cause harmful lasting effects, including lagging achievement, higher dropout rates and social and emotional problems. Poor students are less likely to have support resources at home to recover, some experts say…”

Early Childhood Education – Oklahoma

Tulsa’s preschool programs seen as national model, By Ginnie Graham, March 11, 2013, Tulsa World: “President Barack Obama has proposed sending more federal money to states to create or bolster preschool programs. He mentioned Oklahoma in the State of the Union address for having one of the best. For nearly two months, local early education teachers, advocates and researchers have been answering national calls about Tulsa’s role in this evolution. ‘We love the national attention for the opportunity for all of us to know the value of an early childhood education and invite people in,’ said Andy McKenzie, Tulsa Public Schools assistant superintendent for early childhood services. For the past 15 years, Tulsa has built an early learning system with innovative designs and ongoing social science research. This has been a monumental turnabout. In the mid-’90s, the city nearly lost its Head Start grant and access to a public pre-K class was almost nonexistent. Now, Tulsa’s Head Start is considered a national model. The TPS pre-K classes are full and part of a scientific Georgetown University study…”

 

2012 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

  • Report says 1 in 4 Kentucky children and 1 in 5 Hoosier kids are mired in child poverty, By Jessie Halladay, July 25, 2012, Louisville Courier-Journal: “One in four Kentucky children lives in poverty, and their numbers have increased starkly since 2005, according to the latest Kids Count report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Mirroring a national trend, the number of the state’s children living below the poverty line – defined in 2010 as $22,113 for a family of two adults and two children – rose 18 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the annual report, which provides an annual snapshot of child well-being. In Indiana, one in five children lives in poverty, a 29 percent increase between 2005 and 2010…”
  • Maryland ranks 10th in child well-being, national study says, By Yvonne Wenger, July 25, 2012, Baltimore Sun: “Fewer Maryland children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods than a decade ago, but the lingering economic slump has left more parents without a steady paycheck, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported Wednesday. The Baltimore-based charity ranks Maryland 10th in the nation for overall child well-being in its 2012 Kids Count Data Book, which analyzed nationwide research and statistics on children’s economic well-being, education, health, family and community…”
  • Study: More SC kids living in poverty, By Gina Smith, July 26, 2012, The State: “South Carolina ranks near the bottom – 43rd among the 50 states – in a ranking of children’s well being. That is according to the newly released Kids Count report, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that assesses the overall health of the nation’s children, including their economic health, family situation and education. The most-troubling S.C. finding is the number of children living in poverty…”
  • Kids Count report ranks W.Va. as one of worst in education, By Megan Workman, July 24, 2012, Charleston Gazette: “With nearly four out of five eighth-grade students who are not proficient in math, West Virginia received one of the worst education rankings in the country, a national report being released today shows. Nationwide, the percentage of eighth-graders who are not proficient in math decreased from 72 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2011, according to the report. West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in education, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada join West Virginia as the five states ranked weakest for education…”
  • Alabama 45th of 50 for child well-being in 2012 Kids Count Data Book, By Kim Chandler, July 25, 2012, Birmingham News: “Alabama made its best showing ever in an annual ranking of child well-being, but it still came in 45th among the 50 states. The 2012 Kids Count Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed Alabama made gains in education but continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty. The report ranked Alabama 45th, the state’s best ranking since the Data Book began publication in 1990…”
  • Oklahoma lags in child well-being ranks, By Mike Averill, July 25, 2012, Tulsa World: “Despite slight improvement, Oklahoma remains near the bottom of the country for child well-being, according to a national report that ranks states using an index of 16 indicators in four categories. Oklahoma ranked 40th overall, up from last year’s 43rd spot, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation…”
  • Texas 44th in children’s well-being, By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, July 26, 2012, San Antonio Express-News: “Texas ranks 44th among the states when it comes to the health and well-being of its children, according to a study by a Baltimore nonprofit that advocates for at-risk kids. Using the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the study found the child poverty rate in Texas was higher in 2010 than the national rate of 22 percent, with 26 percent living in poverty. Texas was second from the bottom in children who lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 14 percent in 2010, although that’s been decreasing…”
  • Report ranks Florida behind most states on child health and education, By Margie Menzel, July 26, 2012, Daytona Beach News-Journal: “A new report Wednesday shows Florida trailing most other states in the health and education of its children — with an especially low ranking in economic well-being. The effects are harmful and could be long-term — not just for the children but for the state, advocates say. The annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Florida 44th in the economic well-being of its children, 38th in their health outcomes and 35th in their educational performance. The state ranks 38th overall. The number of Florida children living in poverty is up 28 percent from 2005 to 2010, the last year for which data was included in the study. That measurement considers such factors as whether the parents have secure employment or the ability to cover their housing costs…”

Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Coverage

Health law’s expanded Medicaid could halve Oklahoma’s uninsured poor, By Wayne Greene, July 9, 2012, Tulsa World: “More than half of Oklahoma’s uninsured poor people would be covered by a Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act within five years, according to a 2010 Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured report. With some effort, the expansion could cover nearly three-quarters of uninsured poor Oklahomans, the report says. Oklahoma Health Care Authority figures show that some 624,480 Oklahomans – about 17 percent of the population – don’t have health insurance. A high uninsured population doesn’t just hurt the people who don’t have insurance, said OU-Tulsa President Gerard Clancy, a physician and a leading voice in state health policy discussions…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Ohio, Oklahoma

  • Ohio Senate Republicans pass budget bill without controversial drug testing language, By Aaron Marshall, May 16, 2012, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ohio Senate Republicans dodged one fight Wednesday as they pulled back for now on a controversial proposal to drug test welfare applicants that had advocates for the poor and Democrats ready to rumble.  But another showdown looms as GOP senators approved a $30 million pot of nursing home funding that puts them on a collision course with Republican Gov. John Kasich. As quickly as the drug testing language appeared Tuesday afternoon — slipped into a wide-ranging budget and policy bill — it dropped out of sight Wednesday after GOP Sen. Tim Schaffer of Lancaster offered to remove the it, according to Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Clermont County Republican. After the Senate passed the midterm budget review bill by a vote of 25-8, Niehaus told reporters that Schaffer retreated before questions on the proposal started to fly from Kasich’s office, including how it could be implemented in rural areas without drug testing facilities…”
  • Welfare drug-screening bill is signed into Oklahoma law, By Michael McNutt, May 17, 2012, The Oklahoman: “Welfare recipients who test positive for drugs or refuse to be tested would have their benefits withheld under a bill signed into law Wednesday. The measure makes practices mostly already used by the state Department of Human Services a state law, an agency spokeswoman said. ‘The bill authors worked with us to understand our current process and what we were doing, and we worked with them to find out what the goals were that they wanted to achieve,’ said Sheree Powell, a DHS spokeswoman. ‘It basically puts into law our current practice…'”

2011 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

Summer Food Service Program

Federal program helps feed low-income children during summer, By Kim Archer, June 2, 2011, Tulsa World: “Children in the Tulsa area don’t need to go hungry just because school’s out for the summer. A little-known federal program to ensure that low-income children get proper nutrition during summer months will kick off at Tulsa-area schools, churches and community centers next week. ‘Just because the lunch lady isn’t there to make sure you eat, it doesn’t mean you have to go hungry,’ said Corbin Anderson, spokesman for Tulsa Public Schools’ Summer Café. The Summer Food Service program was created as part of a larger pilot project in 1968, becoming separate in 1975. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the program, and in Oklahoma, the state Department of Education manages it…”

Food Stamp Expenditures – Oklahoma

  • Food stamps equal big money, By Ginnie Graham and Gavin Off, April 24, 2011, Tulsa World: “Retail smokeshops, convenience stores, substance abuse rehabilitation centers and take-and-bake pizza shops across the state received millions in food stamp purchases during a nearly two-year period examined by the Tulsa World. But much of the nearly $1.2 billion in food stamp expenditures went to Walmart stores, which brought in about $506 million between July 2009 and March 2011, according to data supplied by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. And though recipients might live within a mile of a store that accepts food stamps, most recipients travel more than 10 miles for the bulk of the food-stamp spending, according to the World’s analysis…”
  • Food stamps a patch, not a panacea, By Ginnie Graham and Gavin Off, April 25, 2011, Tulsa World: “Wilford Case tries to be conservative with his monthly $90 in food stamps. He knows which store knocks down meat prices mid-month, what grocer has longer-lasting produce and once in awhile he’ll find an unexpected sale at a retailer farther from his home. ‘It helps me survive,’ Case said. ‘I don’t need much because it’s just me. I don’t have 19 kids or anything. I have to put a little money in to get dishwashing soap and things like that.’ But bargain shopping is tough because Case does not drive. He is on Social Security disability income because of epileptic seizures and relies on family members, neighbors and friends for rides. He offers money to the driver to help with rising gas prices…”
  • Military commissaries see spike in food stamp usage, By Ginnie Graham and Gavin Off, April 24, 2011, Tulsa World: “Oklahoma military base commissaries received nearly $1.8 million in food stamp purchases during a nearly two-year period of state data examined by the Tulsa World. The World examined food stamp data provided by the Department of Human Services covering the period from July 2009 to March 2011. During that time, the average monthly purchases in food stamps, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, at the base commissaries grew by about 187 percent. Commissaries are available on base to active and retired military personnel and their families and offer grocery items usually lower in cost than at retail stores. The Fort Sill Army base in Lawton posted about $1.1 million in sales using food stamps, followed by about $625,000 at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, about $110,000 at Altus Air Force Base and about $5,000 at Vance Air Force Base in Enid. The growth in the monthly averages spent on food stamps has skyrocketed…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Unlikely allies in food stamp debate, By Anemona Hartocollis, October 16, 2010, New York Times: “Seventeen years ago, Ann Landers got a letter from “Upset in Texas,’ a checker at a grocery store, complaining about customers on food stamps. One woman bought a ‘fancy birthday cake’ for $17. Another bought a ‘luxury’ bag of shrimp for $32.12, and so forth. ‘Can’t something be done about the freeloaders who are costing us taxpayers millions?’ Upset complained. Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center, thought of that letter with a pang a few days ago, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg asked the federal government for permission to bar New York City’s food stamp users from buying sodas and other sugary drinks with their benefits. Mr. Bloomberg cast his proposal as a kind of social and scientific experiment in fighting the national epidemic of obesity and diabetes. He promised that over the two-year life of the project, New York would collect data on whether food stamp users spent their taxpayer-funded benefits on more healthful choices, like fruits and vegetables. Ms. Vollinger’s group, which is dedicated to fighting hunger, promptly came out against the idea, suggesting that, among other things, it would ‘perpetuate the myth’ encompassed in that letter to Ann Landers, that people who need government assistance make bad choices at the supermarket…”
  • Oklahomans receiving food stamps went up in September, marking 30 straight monthly net increases, By Bryan Painter, October 17, 2010, The Oklahoman: “Howard Hendrick, director of the state Department of Human Services, was visiting a DHS office in McAlester and randomly walked into an interview room. Each day, Hendrick reviews the colossal numbers of those in need. That day in southeastern Oklahoma he wanted to hear the story of the young woman in the room seeking assistance. She wakes at 5 each weekday morning, gets her two children ready, takes them to child care by 6:30 a.m. and arrives at work by 7 a.m. where she’s a manager at a developmental disabilities group home. She’s divorced and her ex-husband works in a little country general store. Even though he’s paying child support and she’s working, they still don’t have enough money to take care of their family. ‘She’s driving a Ford Mustang with a couple hundred thousand miles on it,’ Hendrick said. ‘And she’s just living from paycheck to paycheck, trying to make things work. This is the plight of a lot of people today.’ In March 2008, the number of Oklahomans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, was at 410,440, having dropped 7,184 from the previous month. Unemployment was 3.2 percent and holding steady…”

Kids Count Report – Oklahoma

  • ‘Kids Count’ report shows progress for Oklahoma children, By Michael Overall, October 13, 2010, Tulsa World: “Statistically, children in Oklahoma seem to be healthier and better off now than they were in the mid-1990s, according to the annual ‘Kids Count’ report released Tuesday. But the researchers themselves are quick to mention that old saying: Statistics don’t tell the whole story. ‘Especially in this case,’ said Linda Terrell, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, which presented the report at the University of Central Oklahoma. From birth weights and infant mortality to juvenile crime and drop-out rates, the report compares a dozen different categories of statistics to measure the well-being of children in the state. In most categories, Oklahoma has seen positive long-term trends. ‘But,’ Terrell raises a finger in the air to emphasize this point, ‘the data come from 2008,’ the most recent year with available information…”
  • Parents in prison cause problems for Oklahoma children, By John Estus, October 12, 2010, The Oklahoman: “An Oklahoma mother is sent to prison. Her child is left motherless, develops emotional problems and flunks out of school. The child has a baby of her own before turning to drugs, a life of crime or both. Then that mother is sent to prison, leaving another child with a parent behind bars. This bleak cycle likely happens at a higher rate in Oklahoma than any other state, a new report shows. Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state, and their children are five times more likely to end up in prison than their peers, according to the annual Kids Count Factbook from the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. Lawmakers are taking notice of the issue as they grapple with an underfunded, overcrowded state prison system. The report states more than half of the nearly 26,000 people in state prisons are parents whose imprisonment means their children face a higher risk of going to prison themselves than their peers. Policymakers want to stop that domino effect, particularly when it comes to locking up mothers who committed nonviolent crimes…”

Sentencing and Incarceration of Women – Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers study fallout of high incarceration rate, Associated Press, September 14, 2010, The Oklahoman: “Oklahoma’s strict criminal sentences, especially for women, create hardships for the children of inmates and perpetuate a cycle that often results in the children behind bars themselves, experts warned lawmakers Tuesday. Several child advocates and a criminal justice expert testified before the House Human Services Committee that Oklahoma’s children are paying the price for the state’s tough-on-crime sentencing policies…”