GCS Announces New Poverty Rate

About 67 percent students currently enrolled in Guilford County Schools (GCS) are considered low-income, according to figures released today by district officials. This compares to about 59 percent last school year, although the two figures represent different calculations.

This year, GCS used Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) data as the measurement to determine the percentage of low-income students in addition to the number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals.

CEP data identifies the number of students who have already been identified by federal and state agencies as low-income in order to receive assistance. Using this method, students who have already been identified as being homeless, part of a migrant family, or living in foster care are also automatically included.

Using CEP data to identify low-income students gives the district a clearer and more accurate measure of poverty, according to district officials. Often, as students get older, they are less likely to participate in free and reduced-price meals due to peer pressure or embarrassment, and may discourage their parents from filling out the paperwork, even if the family income qualifies them for assistance.

Using certifications from other agencies makes it possible to qualify and feed students who otherwise might go hungry without the stigma of being singled out in any way. Using CEP data also reduces paperwork and duplication of effort for families and school/district personnel.

Once a group of schools meet a certain threshold (62.5 percent), the entire school qualifies for free breakfast and lunches. This year, 58 schools qualified for that benefit, feeding 28,000 students county-wide. Schools that did not meet CEP eligibility thresholds used the traditional application method. GCS has 127 schools.

Using CEP data as well as the number of students qualified to receive free and reduced lunches GCS identified about 67 percent of GCS students as low-income, compared to about 59 percent using just meal data in 2013-14.

“While some of the poverty increase may be attributable to the new method, we believe this gives us a truer picture of what’s happening in our schools,” says Nora Carr, chief of staff. “We know we have hungry children in our schools. And, we know that one of our fastest growing partnerships is an effort to send food home with children so they can eat when school isn’t in session.”