Here’s an upsetting stat. According to the Southern Education Foundation, the number of public school students classified as low income has surpassed the 50% mark in the South and West for the first time in four decades.
This information is based on the number of students through 12th grade who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
In an Oct. 16 story in the Washington Post, the stats are interpreted to mean that these children are living in poverty or near poverty since to qualify for free lunches, a family of four has a household income of less than $40,793.
A decade ago, only four states in the country registered poor children as the majority of the student population. Now, there are 17 states that meet that criteria-- all in the south and the west.
Studies already show that low-income children often begin school at a disadvantage educationally because they may lack the parental support at home. This leads to higher drop out rates.
It’s not so hard to connect the dots here: children who are hungry do worse in school. It’s not an indictment of their parents, many of whom are struggling and working multiple jobs and are still below the $40,000 threshold.
Studies show that more children are living at poverty levels now than in the past decade, but what the story doesn’t address if higher-income students are switching to private schools, being home schooled, or going to their beloved charter schools. Tell me again why school vouchers are a good idea and are fair and equitable? As a graduate of public schools in the south, this is a disheartening fact. I see more and more of my friends, many of whom went to public schools, feeling that their children can not get a quality education in them any more. They wrestle with if they should stay and try to improve the school, but that often feels like they are sacrificing their child's education to make a point. It's a tough question.
I’m simplifying the issue by taking that swipe at school vouchers and this is a tremendously complicated issue that also includes a lack of health care for the lower-income children, the lingering effects of the 2008 recession, and according to the study, immigration and a higher birth rate for low-income families vs. high-income families. I’d add the growing disparity between the upper class and the lower class and the eradication of the middle class as a contributing factor as well.
Now, the question is what do we do about it?
Oct. 19: Food Bank of Northeast Georgia