According to recent studies, students who come from impoverished backgrounds now make up the majority of public school enrollees. In 2006, 31% of students attended school in high-poverty districts. Now, almost a decade later, that number is 49%. The rising rate of students in poverty is alarming for a number of reasons, but in particular, students who suffer from poverty are often caught playing catch-up with their peers who are better off–and only rarely do they catch up.
Though poverty is present in all fifty states, its highest concentration exists in the 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 more than 70 percent of students were from low-income families, to Illinois, where one of every two students was low-income,” says The Washington Post. If students don’t have access to good education in schools or at home, they won’t be able to contribute meaningfully to their own lives—and that spells disaster both for the students and for the country as a whole.
As of 2014, most states received less funding than they did before the Great Recession. Now 51% of children across the nation qualify for free lunches. The amount of poverty in schools is staggering. Though the Obama administration wants $14.4 billion dollars to assist these impoverished children, more serious efforts need to be made to protect and education them, especially because children from disadvantaged households or areas are statistically more likely to encounter emotional or physical abuse and neglect.
Scott Simpson, director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference Education Fund, finds that those who make the decisions regarding educational funding distribution tend not to have children in the schools that need it. “In many cases the squeakiest wheels are the folks who happen to be on the more generous side of these formulas,” he says, indicating that the administrations that actually possess the power to affect school districts are out of touch with what’s going on in the disadvantaged ones.
Without serious changes being made to the way funds are allocated through state schools, the terrifying increase in student poverty is likely to continue. If many teachers have to worry about the physical and emotional well-being of their students, they can’t teach as much to their classes, and learning is stunted. We have to find a way to help our disadvantaged students—all children should have the right to equal education, regardless of family income.