The districtwide poverty level for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has nudged up one percentage point, to 54.4 percent this year, according to a new report on students eligible for lunch subsidies.
The numbers show poverty increasing at all grade levels. The new preK-8 schools, created when CMS closed three high-poverty middle schools, range from 87 percent poverty at Ashley Park to 95 percent at Reid Park.
Harding High, which used to be a full magnet and picked up neighborhood students when Waddell High closed, rose almost 16 percentage points, to 79 percent poverty. South Meck, which also added former Waddell students, rose 8 percentage points, to 43 percent. North Meck, which is seeing its demographics shift because of the opening of nearby Hough High, rose 11 points to 54.5 percent poverty.
The use of lunch-subsidy numbers to gauge school poverty remains controversial. The guidelines, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allow a family of four with an income up to $29,055 a year to get free lunches; up to $41,348 a year, children from that family would get lunch for 40 cents instead of the full $2.05. Students who get either free or reduced-price meals are counted as economically disadvantaged. The USDA sets strict guidelines for how districts can monitor and verify eligibility; some say those numbers should not be used for other purposes, such as allocating extra teachers and academic aid, because they are not more rigorously checked.