More Shame – Over Half Of Public School Students Live In Poverty

Low Income Students

There has been very encouraging economic news over the past two years including the longest job-growth stretch in several decades, steady GDP growth, record Wall Street profits, and record corporate incomes. However, as the economy is growing at a steady clip, the middle class is rapidly declining and the poor can hardly make ends meet despite working and producing wealth for the rich and powerful. That is a shameful enough, but now it is certain that the segment of the population suffering the effects of the GOP-created income inequality most are, as usual, America’s children. Instead of any real measures or support to address the crushing income disparity between the 1% and the rest of the population, Republicans are proposing harsher measures to shift more wealth to the rich at the expense of those who need it most; families with children.

In a report released late last week by the Southern Education Foundation (SEF); for “the first time in at least 50 years” more than half of America’s public school children live in low-income homes. The report revealed that over 51% of students in grades K through 12 qualified as low income and received free or reduced-price school lunches in 2013. What that means in real life terms is that over half of America’s students are in families earning slightly above, at, or below the federal poverty line. All while the wealthiest Americans have been recipients of 80% of the economic recovery and the rest of the population has faced declining or stagnating incomes by deliberate Republican design.

This is not a new development, and although the numbers have exploded since the Bush-Republican recession, the trend began in the 1980s when Reagan Republicans convinced Americans that giving more money to the rich would benefit the masses and create prosperity in the form of a vibrant middle class. According to the report that analyzed data by the National Center for Education Statistics; in 1989 the figure was under 32 percent. In 2006, it grew to 42 percent, and by 2011 it climbed to 48 percent. In 2013 it was 51 percent amid economic growth for the rich and utter stagnation for the rest of the population.

What should come as no surprise to any American is that the data show the majority of students in 21 states are poor and that two-thirds of them live in third-world Southern states; states that have always had a high concentration of students in poverty but more-so with the advent of right to work laws and attacks on union jobs. The report noted that in Mississippi for example, nearly three-quarters of all public school students live in families that “qualify as low income or poverty;” the conditions Republicans plan to keep their ignorant, racist,  and religious base living in with right to work laws and fierce opposition to middle-class union jobs and raising the minimum wage.

The numbers are telling about the conditions cash-strapped public schools are experiencing, and that teachers forced to educate higher numbers of low-income students are surmounting. The vice-president of the SEF noted that part of the problem in the South is the number of families relocating to regions seeking “the right to work” at lower wages jobs that is a relatively new phenomenon exacerbating an already pressing problem for schools and educators.

Any school teacher will attest to the fact that the students from low-income families tend to arrive at school with completely different needs than students from solidly middle-class and affluent families. They actually have pressing issues such as being hungry, medical problems, poverty-related stress and behavioral issues, and need extra academic help because their parents struggle to feed and clothe them despite working more than one poverty-wage job.

As reported here two weeks ago, low-income students plight is the polar opposite of their wealthier peers who succeed in academics due to less stress at home and higher school funding that provides music, sports, private tutoring and trips to cultural events. Poor students likely attend deliberately under-funded schools that are left to fill in the gaps.

President Obama said he plans to request an additional $1 billion in 2016 for a program to funnel more money to schools with high percentages of poor students. Based on his privatization-minded Education Secretary, one is hopeful that the President ignores counsel from Arne Duncan and earmarks the money for public schools; not grossly under-performing private charter schools taking a larger percentage of public schools funding and not reaching low-income students. The president of the National Education Association suggests that the President “look at public schools in the wealthiest communities as models of what all schools should offer;” and it does not mean more private charter schools.

The SEF spokesman said “We in no way are providing schools and teachers in schools with what it takes to educate low-income students today, as they continue to become a huge part of the school population.” In a good sign President Obama may be paying attention, a spokeswoman for the Education Department said that “Now more than ever, it is critical that we as a country ensure ‘schools’ have the resources and support necessary to prepare every student — no matter his or her ZIP code — for college, careers and life.” One only hopes the spokeswoman was referring to “public schools,” and not private charter schools.

What that entails, according to critics of the growing anti-public education policy, is that schools abandon the narrow focus on standards and testing as the way of measuring whether poorer students are getting equal opportunities. That policy is holdover from the Bush-Boehner “No Child Left Behind” scam designed to ensure school failures to hasten school privatization; a policy the Duncan Education Department is following closely regardless the scam designation known as ‘Race To the Top.”

There is a simpler solution to the problem that schools and teachers face in struggling to teach low-income students that does not entail yet another cycle of new and improved education policy: more living wage jobs. It is no coincidence that the rise in the number of public school students living in poverty or low-income families correlates with the thirty-year middle class decline.

However, now that the Koch brothers control Congress, the idea of a minimum wage hike, tax reform benefitting the poor and middle class, or a substantial funding increase for poor schools is just that; a nice idea. Besides, now Republicans can celebrate that they have reached the tipping point and eclipsed the half-way mark in the number of American public school students living in low-income families; a statistic that would shame any decent American living in the richest nation on Earth. It is just too bad that the number of decent Americans does not include Republicans or their shameless racist religious base.

34 Replies to “More Shame – Over Half Of Public School Students Live In Poverty”

  1. “It is just the children of godless, socialist, liberals….oh, and Black kids. So, who cares?”

    I can hear the Reichwing propaganda machine firing up…

  2. If you look at the map that shows where these kids live, state by state, it’s pretty much a replica of the ’14 electoral map. Those states that went Republican are the ones that have the highest poverty rates. As the article notes, it’s by design. Smart people don’t vote to hurt themselves. Is this that “‘Murican Sextopolism” they talk about?

  3. The libertarian argument against public education is that if I rob a bank(government, corporation, etc.) and buy you an education with the money, it’s still theft. Additionally, it’s not real economic activity, it’s shrinking it. If it causes enough damage the education won’t matter because the job market will shrink.

  4. Talk about being educated and poverty. I was in the grocery store a couple of months back and saw a 20 (some) year old white (not that it matters) girl wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt and flip-flops carrying a pineapple in her hands. She asked a older Hispanic man what it was. He told her it was a pineapple. She said that she never saw one in that form before. The look the man had was telling. A moment that I will recall forever. U.S.A., U.S.A., Number One… Bullshit. We need to “fix” this country people. Its embarrassing. Honest.

  5. Can you imagine if the hundred thousand dollar debt of (public) education was assigned to the child? Do you really think it offers anything – any type of future on its own that makes that investment pay off? Aside from the likelihood of remaining in a poverty situation and the awkward reality that that money does not include food.

  6. Conservatives will be saying of this” It’s a shame that we haven’t made ALL of the nations children live in poverty up till now. Don’t worry the Koch conservatives will make your sick dream come true. When a Conservative says “Reform” they really mean DESTROY!!!

  7. These statistics are skewed:;_ylu=X3oDMTBybnV2cXQwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkAw–/RV=2/RE=1422582027/RO=10/

    Also more money does not equal better schools. There are cities that spend in excess of $25000 per student per year with miserable results. There are suburbs here in MA that spend less than $15000 with outstanding results. Until parents take their children’s education seriously in the poorer areas the results will continue to be miserable all the money in the world will not fix that.

  8. Name one city that spends 25k per student that has terrible results? Name them and by city I don’t mean Mayberry

  9. Specifically citing DC and LA school districts:

    I could look up the results of the DC and LA school districts but I do not think it is necessary. I do not think the schools are without fault, my wife is a teacher I know many of the issues first hand, but the single largest thing affecting a child’s education is his family/home life/parent(s).

  10. BTW my wife specializes in pre-school special needs children so she has worked with some very difficult cases.

  11. OMFG The CATO institute? This wouldn’t be the same CATO that is funded by the Kochs and shill for failing charter schools because they want public funds to line their pockets. You have lost all credibility

  12. Libertarians are RWNJs. They’re ridiculous people with unrealistic views on how a country should function. Their mentality is, if you’re rich you’re a-ok. If you’re not, tough s**t for you.

    The Koch Bros are Libertarians. They don’t hate government. They LOVE Big Gubmint. They take BILLIONS of Big Gubmint Federal dollars every year and don’t think twice about it. To them, Big Gubmint should take taxpayer money and not help fund anything for anyone. According to their warped viedw, Big Gubmint should only be there to funnel money into their business accounts. They see Big Gubmint as their personal piggybank.

    Libertarians just don’t want government to work for working Americans. They long for the days of wealthy plantation owners and unpaid slaves groveling for crumbs from their tables.

    These people make me sick.

  13. DJ,
    I am not arguing with you just to argue. While there are many fine public schools and teachers out there, there is a reason most of our elite, including President Obama choose to send their kids to private school. They do not want to leave their children’s education to chance.

    When the south shore suburb I live in had parents day at the schools you would see all of the parents H/W, H/H, W/W. They held the teachers feet to the fire and the teachers came to expect it, as well as the kids.

  14. But you source is dubious at best and its the KOCHS I don’t think I have to go any further than that

  15. DJ
    You are not disputing facts, you just don’t like the messenger. They were good enough to be cited by WAPO hardly a bastion of conservatism. I also knew you would get a rise out of my use of CATO statistics, but there are many others, if I have time I will cite, but now back to work.

  16. It is an opinion piece hell Jennifer Rubin writes for them. I wish you people would get off your high horse about a liberal media. There is no such thing at least mainstream

  17. No, Bob, those statistics are accurate, as they show the correlation between the declining middle class – thanks to Republicans like you – and poor-performing public schools.

    Even your links suggest as much, since poverty is a big problem in DC and Los Angeles as opposed to those suburbs in Massachusetts, most likely in cities where the income is middle class and upper middle class and families can provide for their children comfortably.

    Still don’t see it, Bob?

    And Bob, can you tell me why it is that people who vote Republican – the Party that is working hard to starve public education and American children – are benefiting from Democratic policies…like your wife and, indirectly, you?

    Can you answer whether all Republicans are afflicted with a bad case of narcissism, convinced to the depths of their hollow souls that the world revolves around them and theirs and only them and theirs?

    Thanks in advance.

  18. ReichWingers in Pennsylvania have in recent years have cut education and doubled the funding for prisons. This is Conservatism in action.

  19. DJ
    You are not disputing facts, you just don’t like the messenger. They were good enough to be cited by WAPO hardly a bastion of conservatism. I also knew you would get a rise out of my use of CATO statistics, but there are many others, if I have time I will cite, but now back to work.

    The school districts themselves often have a vested interest on low balling the amount directly spent by the district on the students because more state money is directed at these districts at least in MA. .

  20. ICH,
    The only thing I can dispute in your argument is that I have not voted for a Republican since Reagan and I was quite a bit younger then. Also are not those cities Democratically controlled, and have been for decades. You would think that if the Democrats really were on the side of the middle class there would be a burgeoning middle class in these bastions of liberalism.

  21. ICH,
    The only thing I can dispute in your argument is that I have not voted for a Republican since Reagan and I was quite a bit younger then. Also are not those cities Democratically controlled, and have been for decades. You would think that if the Democrats really were on the side of the middle class there would be a burgeoning middle class in these bastions of liberalism. You guys are too fast for me, especially while I am working on a spreadsheet on my other screen.

  22. We could look at it this way:

    Really my point is that it is the amount spent per pupil has little relevance if the student and parent(s) are not fully vested in the education. You can dispute that at your own peril. I am not sure how many kids you have, but I would have to think you would make their education a top priority, you are a very bright person, you must know this.

  23. My paycheck is much closer to the first number than the second, and I would say it is very much a middle class paycheck. This is a very expensive state to live in, hence the reason I drive a 10 year old truck and my wife drives a 13 year old Honda.

    Growing up I went to school with a family of Vietnamese refugees who came to this country with nothing and did not speak English. 4 of the 8 kids became Valedictorians in our small south shore town. All 8 went on to college. Their parents were fully committed to getting their kids the best education possible.
    The same goes for the Indian families in the current town I live in. People think these kids are just naturally smart, I can tell you they work incredibly hard and have dedicated families.

  24. BTW DJ I wish I made $250,000/yr, but I do not think it would make me any happier. I have a beautiful wife and two happy and healthy kids, that is real wealth.

  25. This is just from Illinois
    New Trier Township Hsd 203 3rd (of 747 districts) the New Trier Township High School District spent $21,465 College Readiness (district average) 50.8

    Chicago public schools: Schools will receive $4,429 for every student from kindergarten through third grade, $4,140 for students in fourth through eighth grade, and $5,029 for each high school student.
    Only 26 percent of CPS high school students are college-ready, according to results from ACT subject-matter tests.

    Any questions

  26. DJ,
    I am not sure if you are agreeing with me or not, I suspect not. If you want anecdotal evidence the town I live in about 13,000 with 24% minority spends less than $15000/yr per student. 10th ranked school system in MA, with 62.6% college readiness score. Another town Acton- Boxborough less than $14000 also a top 10 ranked school system. These dollar figures are about 2 years old, but most of what has been cited here is a bit dated.

    I am not saying having access to resources is not helpful, it is, but unlimited resources does not beget unlimited success.

  27. Spending and achievement do not necessarily correlate:

    From the article,
    “Higher per-pupil spending has not been conclusively linked to better student performance, said Glenn “Max” McGee, the former state education superintendent.

    “There is really not a direct correlation between spending and achievement,” said McGee, who has studied school finance in relation to gaps in achievement between white and minority students. “Money helps and money matters, but there is not a direct correlation between money and performance.”

    Also high administrative certainly do not help educate the students.

    Also from the article,
    “And Sunset Ridge School District 29 posted the highest average administrator salary, $202,228, up from $191,000 the year before.”


  28. DJ,
    I enjoy going back and forth with you. At least you force people to question. If you hang around only with people who agree with you it gets boring fast.
    Thank you,

  29. conclusively
    Favorite conservative strawman

    Also high administrative certainly do not help educate the students. And Sunset Ridge School District 29 posted the highest average administrator salary, $202,228, up from $191,000 the year before.”
    Exactly how does paying a high salary to management contribute to productivity?
    The billionaire wizard behind Sears’ hideous collapse–hideous-collapse-162905563.html

    And need I remind you of our masters of universe that made gobs of money only to crash the economy. But that’s where are values are at. The more you make we will worship you as our betters

  30. DJ,
    I agree with you many administrative as well as management positions are highly overpaid and often redundant and unnecessary. Do you think the last CEO of JC Penney or the current CEO of Radio Shack deserve their bloated paychecks so they could guide the once profitable companies to an even faster bankruptcy. The redundancy of positions in school administrations often leave me shaking my head.

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