Tags: public schools | poverty | Southern Education Foundation | income inequality

Study: 51 Percent of Public School Children From Low-Income Families

By    |   Friday, 16 January 2015 01:07 PM

A majority of public school students are from low-income families, a new analysis shows, putting many children behind their wealthier peers from their first days in a classroom.

"We've all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it's here sooner rather than later," Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, told The Washington Post.

"A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school," he said.

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), which analyzed federal data from 2013, said in its report  that 51 percent of students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade became eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs during the 2012-13 school year, an indicator of increasing poverty.

"Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low-income students — students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline," said SEF vice president Steve Suitts in the report.

Such students are less likely than their wealthier counterparts to have support from home, have fewer extracurricular opportunities, and are more likely to drop out of high school and never attend college, the Post reports.

"This is a watershed moment when you look at that map," said Kent McGuire, SEF president, referring to a large swath of the country filled with high-poverty schools. "The fact is, we've had growing inequality in the country for many years. 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 highest rates of poverty-level students come from states in the South and West, but there are high rates all over the country. In Mississippi, where three out of every four students come from low-income families, state Education Superintendent Carey Wright said quality preschools are essential.

"These children can learn at the highest levels, but you have to provide for them," Wright said. "You can't assume they have books at home, or they visit the library or go on vacations. You have to think about what you're doing across the state and ensuring they're getting what other children get."

The Obama administration is proposing that Congress add another $1 billion to the $14.4 billion already spend educating poor children, and that preschools for them be funded, but Republican lawmakers have rejected the preschool measure.

On the state level, governors from both parties have initiated numerous education programs.

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A majority of public school students are from low-income families, a new analysis shows, putting many children behind their wealthier peers from their first days in a classroom.
public schools, poverty, Southern Education Foundation, income inequality
Friday, 16 January 2015 01:07 PM
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