The quality of this education is critical, and one of the biggest obstacles to a good education is what has been labeled "Misery Index" for Selected Ventura County School Districts (2021).
WHAT IS THE MEASURE? The measure is an index made up of six socioeconomic indicators from 2021, applied to the 18 elementary and unified school districts in Ventura County. The indicators are the poverty rate among children under 6; the percentage of women-led households with children under 6 who live below the federal poverty line; the percentage of people who speak English “less than very well”; the percentage of students classified as English language learners; the percentage of adults 25 and older without a high school diploma; and the percentage of students eligible for free or discounted meals at school. The percentages are added together and weighted equally; a higher number indicates greater socioeconomic challenges.
WHY IS THE MEASURE IMPORTANT? Not all schools face the same task in educating their students. In some areas, children have more to worry about than their studies; they are learning English, or thinking about whether their families can afford enough food. These factors challenge educators as well as students, and the state recognizes this by making extra funding available for schools with large numbers of these pupils.
HOW ARE WE DOING? There are huge differences in these indicators among school districts in Ventura County. The Briggs Elementary School District and Santa Paula Unified ranked highest on the index, meaning they had the most socioeconomic challenges. The Oxnard and Hueneme elementary school districts tied for third. Every district that scored high on the index is located in the Santa Clara River Valley or on the southern Oxnard Plain — Ventura County’s two main agricultural areas, where the workforce is concentrated in low-paying farm jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, the Oak Park Unified School District scored lowest, followed by Santa Clara Elementary, a single-school district east of Santa Paula. Other districts with low scores on the Misery Index were in the Conejo Valley, the Camarillo area and Simi Valley. The differences among these areas in the individual measures that make up the index are striking. In Oak Park, just 1.6% of adults lack a high school diploma; in Santa Paula 36.4% of adults did not graduate from high school. In Ojai, 2.3% of young children live below the poverty line; in Port Hueneme, 24.1% do. In Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula and Fillmore more than 80% of students qualify for free or discounted meals. In Oak Park, 8.5% of students qualify.