WILDWOOD — According to data released Nov. 18 by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program, Cape May County’s rate of poverty for school-aged children is above the state average and Wildwood School District had the highest rate in the state.
The 2008 data suggests that New Jersey had 11 percent or 161,659 of its school-aged (5-17) children living in poverty. In this county, 12.9 percent or 1,810 students were from poor families.
Statewide, Hudson County had the highest rate with 24 percent of its school-aged children in poverty. Hunterdon’s 2.6 percent was New Jersey’s lowest.
Cape May County also had the second lowest median household income ($54,423) in the state behind only Atlantic County ($52,409).
Within Cape May County, the Wildwood school district had the highest rate with 36 percent or 290 of its 802 students living in poverty. That total was the highest statewide.
Other districts from this region with high rates include: Atlantic City, 30 percent; and Bridgeton, 28 percent.
In this county, Wildwood’s percentage was nearly twice that of the next highest districts — North Wildwood, 18 percent; Woodbine, 17.6 percent; Middle Township, 13.8 percent; and Sea Isle City, 13.7 percent.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Wildwood High School Principal Dr. Gladys Lauriello when she heard about the Census Bureau data showing high student poverty rates in Wildwood. “It’s just the nature of Wildwood’s economy.”
She noted that Wildwood is home to significant number of low-income housing projects including the Sandman Tower, Lions Center and Commissioners Court apartments. Because of the housing availability, impoverished families from throughout the area are placed in Wildwood’s affordable housing and their children attend Wildwood schools.
Lauriello also noted that many of the jobs on the island are in the low paying service industries and many are seasonal jobs.
On the positive side, the high poverty rate makes Wildwood eligible for federal funding for school breakfast, lunch and after school snacks, Lauriello said. The district also receives a lot of support from local community groups that provide some necessities for students from low-income families, she added.
SAIPE numbers combine Census Bureau American Community Survey data with figures from federal tax information, administrative records on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation, Census 2000 statistics and annual population estimates.
According to a Census Bureau release, the tabulations, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, are used as one of the criteria to allocate federal funds to local jurisdictions. In addition, state and local programs use these data for distributing funds and managing school programs.
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