Majority of Head Start kids in the Keys live below the poverty line

More than three-quarters of students in the early childhood program Head Start in the Florida Keys live below the federal poverty line, according to a report that was to be presented to the Monroe County School Board Tuesday.

“It is becoming more difficult to find families that meet the Federal Poverty Guideline to qualify for the program,” the report states.

For school year 2016-17, 201 students, who were recruited the year before, were in Head Start, the federally funded program for children ages 3 to 5. Of the 201 kids, 168 were in families living below the poverty line. Seven students lived below 130 percent of the federal poverty line.

Thirteen students were homeless and 20 students were over the income limit.

A family of four making an annual income of $24,600 meets the poverty line, according to federal calculations. But in the expensive Florida Keys, another report shows that that is hardly enough to pay for shelter, food and other basics.

Also, the report shows that the total number of two-parent families was 95, or 47 percent, while the number of one-parent families was 106, or 53 percent. Forty percent of students spoke Spanish as a primary language.

According to the United Way’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report, a family of four — two adults with one infant and one preschooler — needs $68,952 for a “survival budget.”

Head Start sites are at Gerald Adams Elementary and Horace O’Bryant School in Key West, Stanley Switlik Elementary in Marathon and Key Largo School.

Recruitment for Head Start takes place all year. Parents may call schools with Head Start programs for information and open enrollment allows any family that has a child that is 3 or 4 years old before September to apply.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen