Hard times hitting students and schools

With mortgage foreclosures throwing hundreds of families out of their homes each month, dismayed school officials say they are feeling the upheaval: Record numbers of students turning up for classes this fall are homeless or poor enough to qualify for free meals, reports the New York Times. "We’re seeing a lot more children in poverty," said Lauren Roberts, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County, Ky., school system, a 98,000-student district that includes Louisville and its suburbs. At the same time, the district is struggling with its own financial problems. Responding to a cut of $43 million by the state in education spending and to higher energy and other costs, school officials in Jefferson County have raised lunch prices, eliminated 17 buses by reorganizing routes, ordered drivers to turn off vehicles rather than letting them idle, and increased property taxes. The Jefferson County system is typical this school year. As 50 million children return to classes across the nation, crippling increases in the price of fuel and food, coupled with the economic downturn, have left schools from California to Florida to Maine cutting costs. Some are trimming bus service, others are restricting travel, and a few are shortening the school week. And as many districts are forced to cut back, the number of poor and homeless students is rising. "The big national picture is that food and fuel costs are going up and school revenues are not," said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. "We’re in a recession, and it’s having a dramatic impact on schools."

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