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A recent shift in public school demographics mirrors the wider picture of growing poverty and dramatic inequality that has come to characterize American society.

All this talk from conservatives about how we all have to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps is more out of touch with reality than ever before, especially when you consider that many teachers at public schools have to focus on making sure their students’ basic needs are met, as The Washington Post piece below highlights. It’s no wonder some children never have a chance to catch up with their wealthier counterparts, but then again, that’s what an oligarchy thrives on: inequality at all levels.

The Washington Post:

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation…The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.

It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school…“When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches…“The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years,” he said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

The data show poor students spread across the country, but the highest rates are concentrated in Southern and Western states. In 21 states, at least half the public school children were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches — ranging from Mississippi, where more than 70 percent of students were from low-income families, to Illinois, where one of every two students was low-income.

Read More.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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