MADISON (WKOW) -- The number of students poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch is on the rise.
The state Department of Public Instruction reported Thursday that 39 percent of students in Wisconsin were eligible in the programs in the 2009 school year. That is up from 35.5 percent the year before and 33.4 percent in 2007.
State Superintendent Tony Evers blames the poor economic times on the big increase.
"Many times when families fall into poverty, there's more disfunction at home than there would normally be," Evers said. "Kids bring that to school with them."
The highest percentage of students in the programs, at more than 80 percent each, were the Milwaukee, Menominee Indian and Lac du Flambeau districts.
Free lunches are available to families of four earning less than about $29,000 a year. Reduced-price lunches are for families of four earning less than about $41,000.