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Half of U.S. Public School Students Living in Poverty, Study Finds
Posted on Oct 17, 2013
As the right wingers in the House diddled away time and money with their little act of budgetary hostage taking, The Washington Post dug out a new report from a nonprofit focusing on education policies that found a majority of public school students in the South and the West qualify for free or reduced lunches, which means they are living in poverty.
Nationwide, the percentage was just two ticks below half, based on a Southern Education Foundation analysis of the 2010-2011 school year. Think about that. Half of American children live in families existing near or below the federal poverty line, which is a stingy $40,793 for a family of four. Leading the way: Mississippi, with 71 percent of students qualifying for the food aid. Incidentally, all of Mississippi’s congressional representatives save one—the lone Democrat—voted last month to cut food stamps.
Paralleling the income divide is a school-readiness divide. Children from impoverished families show up for kindergarten with half the vocabulary of their wealthier peers, the Post says. And a decade ago, only four states had a majority of its children qualifying for the meal assistance, the paper reports.
Bizarrely, the biggest increases in childhood poverty are in Southern states dominated by Republicans—who have been trying to kill programs that help their neediest constituents. But need and political power are polar opposites in a system where money has the only voice.
It’s quixotic to think, yes, but imagine if the Koch brothers cared about people instead of failed ideology and their own wealth?
The issue also points up such failed educational reform initiatives as the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” and the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top,” which use punitive measures based on student test scores. It’s hard to teach children too hungry to focus. Hank Bounds, the Mississippi commissioner of higher education, said the country needs to figure out how to educate the growing classes of poor students and reverse the trend.
“Lots of folks say we need to change this paradigm, but as a country, we’re not focusing on the issue,” said Bounds, who was previously Mississippi’s state school superintendent. “What we’re doing is not working. We need to get philanthropies, the feds, business leaders, everybody, together and figure this out. We need another Sputnik moment.”
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
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