Local Connection: Poverty in Hawaii

By: Rick Blangiardi

A new report from the University of Hawaii center on the family is as disturbing as it is sad: one in six of those under 18 live in poverty.

That pencils out to 51,000 children or 17 percent of the population of those under 18. The last time this statistic was released in 2005, it was 12.5 percent.

Clearly something is wrong when so many kids live below the poverty line in families of four where household income is $22,811.

Kids who start out in this environment are already behind the eight ball, with higher risk of teen pregnancy, poor health, frequency of dropping out of school and grim job prospects.

The study, through Hawaii kids count, showed that more teens (nearly one in 10) are abusing alcohol or drugs and more high school students (one in four) fail to graduate on time, higher than the national average.

Even the improvements are depressing. ''Only' 73 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, down from 77 percent and 70 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math, down from 82 percent.

What kind of children are we raising in such poverty and what kind of future will they have? It's something each one of us has to consider if we are to continue to improve the future of our state.

Let's at least get started with state-funded preschool. That's a great way to start.

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