Tags: Poor | Low-Income | South | West

Study: Low-Income Students a New Majority in South, West

Friday, 18 October 2013 05:43 PM

More than half the children in public schools in the South and West are from low-income families for the first time, a new study reveals.

The study by the Southern Education Foundation
is based on the number of students receiving free or reduced-cost lunches.

A majority of children in 17 states were poor enough to qualify for free or reduced meals in the 2010-2011 school year. Thirteen of those states were in the South; the other four were in the West.

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States with the highest percentage of low-income students were Mississippi with 71 percent; New Mexico, 68 percent; Louisiana, 66 percent; Oklahoma, 61 percent; and Arkansas, 60 percent. Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, California, West Virginia, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas all had half or more of their public school children getting free or reduced lunches.

For the entire nation, 48 percent of public school children were poor. The South had the highest rate, 53 percent, and for the first time in history, over half public school students in the West qualified as low income.

The 2008 recession boosted the ranks of poor children, but their numbers have been steadily increasing since at least 1989, according to the foundation.

From 2001 through 2011, the numbers of low income students grew by 32 percent – an increase of more than 5.7 million children. Over half the students in the South already qualified as poor in 2007.

The foundation also reports a growing discrepancy in educational funding as schools with the largest proportions of poor children, especially those in the South, are spending the least.

Low-income children will probably comprise the majority in public schools nationwide with the next few years, the foundation predicts.

"With huge, stubbornly unchanging gaps in learning," the study warns, "schools in the South and across the nation face the real danger of becoming entrenched, inadequately funded educational systems that enlarge the division in America between haves and have-nots and endanger the entire nation’s prospects."

"This is incredible," said Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, according to The Washington Post.

The swift increase in poverty helps explain why the U.S. falls behind other nations in test scores. Students from high-income families perform well on tests, he told the Post.

"It’s when you start getting down to schools with a majority of low-income kids that you get astoundingly low scores. Our real problem regarding educational outcomes is not the U.S. overall, it’s the growing low-income population."

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More than half the children in public schools in the South and West are from low-income families for the first time, a new study reveals.
Friday, 18 October 2013 05:43 PM
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