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Community report shows racial divide

Modified: Tuesday, Nov 20th, 2012

Will O'Sullivan addresses public safety Monday at Twin lakes Church in Aptos at the annual Community Assessment Report. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian).

APTOS — The United Way of Santa Cruz County released the results of the 18th annual Community Assessment Project (CAP) at a special press event at Twin Lakes Church Monday.

The CAP report is a unique way for the community to “understand, assess and improve the quality of life for people in Santa Cruz County,” said Twin Lakes Outreach Pastor Paul Spurlock, who co-hosted the event with Michael Milward, president and CEO of Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

The comprehensive report, which is a joint effort of the United Way of Santa Cruz County, Dominican Hospital and Applied Survey Research, looked at quality-of-life issues in six areas: the economy, education, health, public safety, the social environment and the natural environment.

Findings were based on 100 indicators in the CAP, including primary data from a telephone survey of a representative sample of Santa Cruz County residents, and secondary data from a variety of national, state and local sources.

Top-line findings for the county were overall positive. Total crimes decreased 16 percent from 11,459 crimes reported in 2005 to 9,642 crimes in 2010, foreclosures dropped from 1,264 in 2010 to 1,150 in 2011, and the county unemployment rate dipped to 9.9 percent in June 2012 (compared to 12.1 percent in 2011).

Yet, in spite of the overall positive outlook, the report shows a glaring distinction in the quality of life between white and Latino county residents.

Across all areas, Latino residents were shown to come up short when it comes to education, access to regular health care, number of teen births and various economic indicators.

Most telling, 80 percent of white CAP survey respondents reported enjoying their life to a great extent in 2011, compared to 48 percent of Latinos.

In regards to health, 51 percent of Latinos had health insurance, compared to 90 percent of white residents. Eighty-nine percent of teen births were by Latinas.

Seventy percent of Latino respondents said they were either overweight or obese, versus 54 percent of white respondents.

Twenty-six percent of Latino respondents stated they have gone without basic needs (health care, food, child care) compared to 10 percent of white respondents.

Bonny Lipscomb, executive director of the Economic Development Department of the City of Santa Cruz, presented the economic findings at Monday’s event, and though she expected modest growth for the county and a return to pre-recession levels by 2015, she called on community stakeholders to continue to monitor the disparity between Latinos and white residents.

The unemployment rate was 14.9 percent for Latinos, versus 9.5 percent for white residents, with Watsonville having the highest unemployment rate, 21 percent in June 2012, of any county jurisdiction.

Eighty-five percent of Latino survey respondents spent more than 30 percent of their take-home pay on housing costs compared to 46 percent of white residents and white residents were significantly more likely to save money for the future than Latinos.

Henry Castaniada, superintendent for Soquel Union Elementary School District, introduced the report’s education findings and said county schools were preparing students for the 21st century and a global economy so kids “need to be taught differently.”

“It is a very competitive world, and we have to provide opportunities for all children,” Castaniada said, adding that county schools have to respond to changing demographics.

Castaniada suggested improvements be made in pre-literacy skills, noting the impact socioeconomics play in vocabulary attainment. He said that on average, middle class students have 4,000 words in their vocabulary when they enter kindergarten, versus 1,500 words for poor students.

English language skills is a big issue, with 29 percent of all county students classified as English language learners. This goes up to 45.1 percent in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

“Everyone should have the ability to make the choice to go to college,” Castaniada said, adding that getting into college is much more competitive now, and educators need to ensure students are taking the right amount of math, science and technology-focused classes to get to college.

According to the CAP report, 40.1 percent of all Santa Cruz County high school graduates complete all courses required to attend UC / CSU, which is comparable to the statewide figure of 40.3 percent.

Yet broken down by ethnicity, it comes out to 27.8 percent of Latino students compared to 50.6 percent white students completing their required courses. The top-ranked district in the county is Scotts Valley Unified at 51.1 percent, followed by Pajaro Valley Unified School District at 43.3 percent.

Out of 1,426 Cabrillo College graduates in 2011, 27 percent were Latino and 57.5 percent were white.

In the area of public safety, total crime decreased from 39.9 crimes per 1,000 residents in 2002 to 36.7 crimes in 2010, however aggravated assault increased in the county by 29 percent since 2002. There were 14 homicides in the county in 2010, up from 6 in 2002.

Watsonville experienced the biggest decrease (17 percent) in overall crime between 2002 and 2010 of all incorporated areas of the county.

For more information, visit: www.santacruzcountycap.org/.

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