The number of kids living in poverty in West Virginia is growing.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger says it’s an issue that is carried into West Virginia’s schools each day. “How can we expect student achievement if the children are going home worried about their next meal?”
Senator Unger serves as Chairman of the Senate Child and Poverty Committee which is meeting every Wednesday at the State House for the duration of the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.
A recent study from the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and the Center on Budget and Policy shows one out of every four kids in the Mountain State lives below the poverty line.
In all, 56% of school aged kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.
According to the study, the highest child poverty numbers are in the following counties: McDowell, Mingo, Lincoln, Cabell, Roane, Clay, Gilmer, Lewis, Doddridge and Randolph.
Senator Unger says the results are important because what happens to a child early in life sets the tone for future educational achievement, employment, per capita income, crime and substance abuse.
“Do we just throw up our hands and say, ‘It’s over!’ or do we try to address the issue?” the Democrat from Berkeley County asked. “The fact that there’s been brokenness and failure within our system and structure doesn’t mean that that child needs to suffer.”
This past weekend, church leaders across West Virginia held prayer vigils, service projects and other activities to draw attention to the problem of child poverty in their communities.
On Tuesday, hundreds of kids, parents and child advocates will be at the State Capitol to talk about a ten point plan for addressing child poverty during Kids and Families Day at the Legislature.
Supporters of the plan say every $1 spent on quality early childhood education and care now will add up to at least $7 in savings for the state through the avoidance of future crime, unemployment and poor health.