Thanksgiving and The Holiday Spirit

On this holiday when we think about all the things for which we are grateful, it is also fitting to think about those who don’t have as much, the public policy implications, and how we can help.

A study from The Southern Education Foundation shows these disheartening statistics:

The latest data shows that low income students comprise a near-majority of the nation’s public school children (51 percent) and are half or more of all students in the South and the West. Low income students are concentrated in the nation’s cities, but …. forty percent or more of all public school children in the nation’s suburbs, towns, and rural areas are low income students.

Since 2001, the number of low income students in public schools has grown roughly by one-third (32 percent) across the states.These are the students who need the most assistance.They generally are more likely to score lowest on school tests, fall behind in school, fail to graduate, and never receive a college degree. … The growth in the number of low income students far out-stripped the growth in per pupil spending in public schools during the last decade in every region of the country, except the Northeast. … During virtually the same period (2003-2011), the learning gap for low income students across the nation and in every region of the country, except the Northeast, remained stagnant.”

As of 2013, Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate of low-income students, 71 percent, almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi. The nation’s second highest rate was found in New Mexico, where 68 percent of all public school students were low income in 2013.

As the study points out, the consequences of this situation are far-reaching and go beyond simple notions of “fairness” or even legal equity. This large body of students will grow up to be our citizens and our “human capital” in the future.

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