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aecf-kidscountdatabookcover-2014The Annie E. Casey Foundation has been tracking child well-being in their annual KIDS COUNT Data Book for the past 25 years. The data in the 2014 report continues to measure indicators in four domains: 1) Economic Well-being, 2) Education, 3) Health, and 4) Family and Community. The figures are based on data as recent as 2012.

This year, Oklahoma fell to 39th overall in Child Well-Being in the KIDS COUNT state profiles. Terry Smith, the president and CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, was quoted in the Oklahoman as saying

“After a brief improvement in the rankings due to the recession’s impacts on the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has begun to fall again as the overall economy improves.”

Smith went on to say Continue Reading »

It’s time to once again cover Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report. Feeding American, of course, is a network of over 200 food banks. They help their partners distribute 3 billion pounds of food every year.

Their annual Map the Meal Gap report examines local food insecurity trends and this year’s report reflects data from 2012. This report helps local food programs measure food insecurity within their communities, providing information on the local level and including data on every county in the U.S.

map the meal gap 2Their estimates show the food insecurity rate in the U.S. is 15.9%, down from 16.4% in last year’s report. This means 48,966,000 Americans lack the resources to consistently afford enough nutritious food to live active, healthy lives.

The report also highlights children’s hunger by measuring the child food insecurity rate, which is currently at 21.6%. The 2012 child food insecurity rate is also lower than in 2013, which was 22.4%, but still includes 15,898,999 children living with food insecurity.

For Oklahoma, Map the Meal Gap estimates food insecurity rates have remained virtually the same since last year’s report, coming in at 17.2% of the state population. This means Continue Reading »

When researchers test a new medicine or even a new program design, they often devise a study comparing results between a treatment group and a control group. People in the control group receive no treatment, and forgo any benefits if it is proven to work and avoid any side effects if proven harmful.

A trial is going on regarding healthcare in this country, and right now Oklahoma has put itself in the control group. In this case, being in the control group may not be in our state’s best interest. However, it will provide useful comparisons between our state and states that chose to expand Medicaid.

medicaidIn 2012, in the same decision where the Supreme Court ruled the bulk of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was constitutional, the court also ruled that the federal government could not force the states to accept the Medicaid expansion. The Medicaid expansion was intended to provide healthcare coverage for Americans whose income fell below 133% of the poverty level.

While the court ruled the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid eligibility, it did keep the option alive for states willing to accept federal money for the expansion. In essence, the final decision on expanding Medicaid fell to the individual states.

However, declining the expansion does not leave states in the same situation they were in before the ACA was passed.  In 2014, all states will begin to see a decline in the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments the federal government grants to states to fund care for indigent patients.

States used DSH payments to help hospitals deal with unpaid medical bills, and DSH payments are decreasing because Medicaid was supposed to fill the gap. So it is important to understand that declining additional Medicaid funds leaves many hospitals at a financial disadvantage. Continue Reading »

A previous blogger, Diama Norris, first wrote about the 20K House Project on our blog back in 2009. The idea behind the project is the creation of affordable housing which serves as an alternative to mobile homes and expands homeownership among low-income individuals. The idea is as appealing now as it was when Diama first discussed it over 5 years ago.house keys

Rural Studio is the program behind the 20K House project. They are an undergraduate program of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. Rural Studio is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has much to show for it. Over the past two decades they have provided practical experiences for students who design and build projects benefiting underserved populations in rural Alabama.

The 20K House Project itself began in 2005, and has produced 12 versions of the 20K house. Each version was given away to residents in need who reside in and around Hale County. Now efforts are underway to take what Rural Studies has learned through this hands-on research project and create a marketable product. This will Continue Reading »

“How much arithmetic does a pupil forget in a summer vacation?”

“Is this loss made good, or more than good, by a week or two of review in the fall?”

These questions are relevant today, but they are not quotes from a recent article on summer learning loss. These are the questions asked in 1906 by William F. White, a professor of mathematics at the State Normal School in New York. He authored one of the early studies documenting the loss of math skills among school age children after summer break.

Summer-Learning-Day-logo-no-urlFor more than a century, educators have documented, studied and tried to combat summer learning loss. It has become well known that all children are prone to losing math skills during the summer, and modern studies show the loss of reading skills is also an issue, especially among children from low-income families.

The National Summer Learning Association highlights one reason for the reading gap that exists based on household income; Continue Reading »

School will soon be out for many Tulsa students, and for families struggling with food insecurity this can mean an added strain on the budget. To address this need, the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides meals during the summer break.

Nationwide, 2.28 million children participated in the program in 2012 and 39,000 sites across the country helped distribute nutritious meals to children. Participation has grown in recent years. Yet, studies estimate the program still does not reach the majority of children who qualify for assistance under the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year.

2012-summer-food-service-program

The USDA allows for different types of eligible sites under the Summer Food Service Program. Both types of sites depend on standards for free and reduced lunches set by the National School Lunch Program. Students are eligible for free lunches if their household income is at or below 130% of the poverty level. Students from households with income between 130% and 180% of the poverty level qualify for reduced priced lunches.

Under the Summer Meal Service Program, there are “Enrolled Sites,” where each family must fill out an application and the site must Continue Reading »

The Minimum Wage has been in the news quite a bit lately. Many are urging both states and the federal government to raise the wage, which has been set at $7.25 on a national level since 2009.

There also is something called the “housing wage,” which is determined by calculating the hourly rate a full-time worker needs to earn in order to pay only the recommended 30% of his or her income towards rent. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the housing wage in Tulsa County is currently $14.21 for a 2 bedroom apartment at fair market rent. So, in other words, for a household to afford rent on a 2 bedroom apartment, 2 people would need to be working full-time for at least minimum wage.

The annual income needed to keep housing costs affordable has increased $720 from 2013 to 2014. This increase means a family earning just enough to comfortably afford rent on a 2 bedroom unit in 2013 would need a 2.4% pay raise just to keep up with the rise in housing costs in Tulsa.

housing wage

Stepping back to look at Oklahoma as a whole, Continue Reading »

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