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 in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. 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.
More school spending on these kids may help. But you know what else might help?
— Stop demonizing the poor and saying that they’re lazy.
— Paying living wages – and recognizing they’re not just some “giveaway” to people who “don’t want to work in higher paying positions”.
— Actual access – both physical and financial – to effective reproductive health care for women.
— Recognizing that this income gap leads to learning gaps, which will only further exacerbate income inequality in the future.
Job creators – take a good, long look at your workforces. Do you dislike that 51 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches? Hate the idea that your tax dollars pay for this? Then make sure you’re paying their parents a living wage.