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State schools serving more poor children

PORTLAND — Many Oregon school districts are serving an increasing percentage of children living in poverty, according to new Census Bureau figures.

Nine large and medium-size districts had at least 30 percent of their students living in poverty in 2013, according to analysis done by The Oregonian. In 2007, before the recession, Oregon didn't have any school districts exceed that threshold.

Among the 93 Oregon school districts with at least 1,000 school-age residents, only four saw their child poverty rates improve from 2007: Umatilla, Oregon Trail, Banks and Molalla.

The trend reflects what happened across the country. Nationally, 30 percent of counties had higher poverty rates among school-age children in 2013 than they did before the recession, while fewer than 0.5 percent show better child poverty rates. The others didn't show statistically significant changes.

The Census Bureau based its estimates primarily on federal tax returns. In 2013, a family of four fell below the poverty threshold if its income was $23,550 or less.

The newspaper's analysis includes only 120 Oregon districts for which the Census Bureau reported poverty figures. The estimates for many small districts had large margins of error.

The districts with the highest school-age poverty rates include Oakridge (40 percent), Ontario (39 percent), Woodburn (37 percent), Culver (36 percent) and Myrtle Point (36 percent).

The number of large and medium-size districts with less than 10 percent of students living in poverty fell from 15 districts down to nine during the six-year period covered by the study. A sharp increase was seen in the central Oregon community of Redmond, where the percentage of school-age children living in poverty jumped from 9 percent to 25 percent.

The share of students living below the poverty line grew at least slightly in the three largest Portland-area districts. But Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro all remained below the state average of 19 percent.

The Portland suburb of Lake Oswego had the state's lowest school-age poverty rate, just 5 percent.