THE U.S IS ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
YET THE WASHINGTON POST HAS JUST FEATURED THE FOLLOWING STARK HEADLINE:
“MAJORITY OF U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE IN POVERTY”
WHAT KIND OF NATION ARE WE?
I’m truly baffled by our lack of social concern. It has to have the most serious social, political, and economic consequences. We are growing a vast and ever-increasing underclass—yet we are endeavoring to compete internationally.
If this is the best the American Business Model can do, we need another business model fast. This is a disgrace. It doesn’t say much for the current state of American democracy either.
Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that the countries that really do succeed internationally—nations like Germany, all of Scandinavia, Austria, Switzerland, and the like (who, incidentally, leave us in the dust under a whole host of headings)—are nations with highly educated, well off workforces that know how to add most value and practice Social Democracy..
Meanwhile much of corporate America is engaged in the Big Squeeze on labor with the active support of the Republican party—and, in many cases—the complicity of the Democrats—and against a backdrop of the indifference of most affluent Americans.
Let me quote from the Washington Post story. It would depress a saint!
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 Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunches in the 2012-2013 school year. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “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.”
The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, more than half of the children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home to succeed, 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 swelling ranks of needy children arriving at the schoolhouse door each morning.
Schools, already under intense pressure to deliver better test results and meet more rigorous standards, face the doubly difficult task of trying to raise the achievement of poor children so that they approach the same level as their more affluent peers.
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 almost three out of every four students were from low-income families, to Illinois, where one out of every two was low-income.
Carey Wright, Mississippi’s state superintendent of education, said quality preschool is the key to help poor children.
“That’s huge,” she said. “These children can learn at the highest levels, but you have to provide for them. 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 new report raises questions among educators and officials about whether states and the federal government are devoting enough money — and whether it is allocated in the most effective way — to meet the complex needs of children living in poverty.
The Obama administration wants Congress to add $1 billion to the $14.4 billion it spends annually to help states educate poor children. It also wants Congress to fund preschool for those from low-income families. Collectively, the states and the federal government spend about $500 billion annually on primary and secondary schools, with about $79 billion coming from Washington.
The amount spent on each student can vary wildly from state to state. Vermont, with a relatively low student-poverty rate of 36 percent, spent the most of any state in 2012-2013, at $19,752 per pupil. In the same school year, Arizona, with a 51 percent student-poverty rate, spent the least in the nation at $6,949 per student, according to data compiled by the National Education Association. States with high student-poverty rates tend to spend less per student: Of the 27 states with the highest percentages of student poverty, all but five spent less than the national average.
Republicans in Congress have been wary of new spending programs, arguing that more money is not necessarily the answer, and they have rebuffed President Obama’s calls to fund preschool for low-income families. A number of Republican and Democratic governors have initiated state programs in the past several years.
The report comes as Congress begins debate about rewriting the country’s main federal education law, which was first passed as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and was designed to give federal help to states to help educate poor children. The most recent version of the law, known as No Child Left Behind, has emphasized accountability and outcomes, measuring whether schools met benchmarks and sanctioning them when they fell short.
That federal focus on results, as opposed to need, is wrongheaded, Rebell said.
“We have to think about how to give these kids a meaningful education,” he said. “We have to give them quality teachers, small class sizes, up-to-date equipment. But in addition, if we’re serious, we have to do things that overcome the damages of poverty. We have to meet their health needs, their mental health needs, after-school programs, summer programs, parent engagement, early-childhood services. These are the so-called wraparound services. Some people think of them as add-ons. They’re not.
VOR words c.200