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State Agency Fails To Widely Correct Inflated Poverty Rate

A state agency says it sent out a news release before the election that incorrectly claimed poverty in Kansas had declined under Gov. Sam Brownback and did not issue a correction to the media when it became aware of the inaccuracy.

Kansas Department of Children and Families' Oct. 20 release said the state's poverty rate had dropped 2.3 percent between 2011 and 2013. When the Kansas Health Institute notified the agency the rate was not accurate, the department issued a correction to the KHI but not to any other media, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Agency officials inadvertently combined figures from separate poverty measures, spokeswoman Theresa Freed said.

"We misread the report," Freed said. "There was no intent to mislead anyone."

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in the revised statement that poverty had dropped "slightly" during the Brownback administration but she was confident state efforts to improve the poverty rate were working. Brownback, who won re-election on Nov. 4, emphasized reducing poverty during his tenure, particularly pertaining to children.

The poverty rate is generally assessed in Kansas from two Census Bureau measures. One is known as the official poverty measure, or CPS, and the other is a supplemental poverty measure, or SPM. Both use three-year rolling averages.

Freed said the original news release included the 2.3 percent decline in Kansas poverty by subtracting the latest SPM of 11.8 percent from the updated CPS of 14.1 percent, which is not how the numbers are meant to be applied.

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