BEMIDJI -- For Beltrami County children, poverty rates are down, but so are graduation rates.
The annual Kids Count study conducted by Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota was released this week and shows a county improving in some key areas related to child care and declining in others -- lagging behind state averages nearly across the board.
Beltrami County’s child poverty rate dropped from 28 percent in last year’s study to 27.3 percent, with fewer children receiving SNAP (food stamps) and free- or reduced-price lunch at school.
A child here is nearly twice as likely to be impoverished compared to Minnesota taken as a whole, where the poverty rate also dropped from last year’s study, from 15.3 percent to 14 percent.
The Kids Count study uses numbers compiled in the past few years, relying heavily on 2013 data.
It found that, despite some numbers suggesting more stable home lives, children here are still struggling in school. The county’s student dropout rate went from 11.9 percent to 13.8 percent, and its graduation rate went from 66.1 percent to 60.7 percent.
Students remained highly mobile in Beltrami County, with 22.5 percent switching schools.
And while families here tend to have less money, child care in Beltrami County tends to be cheaper than across the state.
It costs about $6,474 to place a toddler in a licensed daycare center in Beltrami County, and about $12,776 in Minnesota on average.
The study highlighted disparities hurting Native American children, who numbers show are much more likely to have troubled home lives and negative school experiences than white children.
Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota will hold a public meeting Feb. 5 in Bemidji, discussing the county’s numbers and recent trends. The nonprofit organization began its tour of Minnesota cities with a meeting in Minneapolis on Tuesday and a meeting in Mankato on Wednesday.
The group formed in 1973 and expanded to Minnesota in 1985.