News

SEF Report: Majority of U.S. public school students live in poverty

For the first time in at least a half century, a majority of American public school students live in poverty, according to a new report released by the Southern Education Foundation.

Fifty-one percent of the nation’s public school students were eligible for free and reduced lunch programs in 2013, according to federal data. In North Carolina, that figure stood at 53 percent—and in the south overall, the numbers of poor students were the highest.

Lyndsey Layton at the Washington Post explained the significance of the new development:

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.

Back in 2006, a report by SEF highlighted how low income children became a majority of the public school students in the Southern states. The authors made this observation:

Currently the South alone faces the implications and consequences of having a new majority of low income students in its public schools… the South also faces a new global economy that requires higher skills and knowledge from all who seek a decent living. In this brave, new world, the people and policymakers of Southern states must realize that continuing the current, uneven level of educational progress will be disastrous.

They must understand more fully that today their future and their grandchildren’s future are inextricably bound to the success or failure of low income students in the South. If this new majority of students fail in school, an entire state and an entire region will fail simply because there will be inadequate human capital in Southern states to build and sustain good jobs, an enjoyable quality of life, and a well-informed democracy. It is that simple.

With today’s news, the president of the Southern Education Foundation had this to offer:

“This is a watershed moment when you look at that map,” said Kent McGuire, president of the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, referring to a large swath of the country filled with high-poverty schools.

“The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years,”he said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

16 Comments


  1. david esmay

    January 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

    One more dividend from the real and permanent damage that conservative trickle down economic policies have wrought of the past thirty-five years.

  2. ErikKengaard

    January 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Shouldn’t public policy makers seek first to understand why we have this situation, rather than just jump to conclusions with regard to solutions? I just read the report . . . it contains no explanation of causes. Given the trillions spent on the “War on Poverty,” why should we trust policy makers to make effective decisions on the matter of educating poor children when those policy makers don’t understand the root of the problem?

  3. Alan

    January 17, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    “And in the south overall, the numbers of poor students were the highest.” Red States = economic disadvantage in favor of twisted ideology. Sadly, the uneducated fall for the propaganda and consistently vote against their own self interest. Maybe someday, they hope, one of those wealthy elites will give them a job and lift them out of poverty…yeah, we’ve all seen the trickle-down policies at work…

  4. LayintheSmakDown

    January 17, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Past thirty five years? Where have you been? Our country has been barreling down the path of progressivism and communism for the past 40-50 years! This is a dividend of the nanny state.

  5. ML

    January 18, 2015 at 9:56 am

    The only problem lsd, is that history proves you wrong. Check the time of reagans initial tax cuts, that’s the beginning of the end.

  6. LayintheSmakDown

    January 18, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    What history, it is a known fact in economic circles that had Kennedy and his dems not ratcheted up spending the tax cuts would have had an even more massive positive effect on the economy. In fact in all history (other than your progressive history which is typically called “spin” or a “talking point”) you can see that receipts typically increase once you decrease tax rates.

  7. david esmay

    January 19, 2015 at 9:55 am

    LSD, hallucinating again? Every Republican admin leaves nothing but debt and deficits in it’s wake.

  8. LayintheSmakDown

    January 19, 2015 at 10:07 am

    No, not hallucinating, just seeing the world in a realistic view not with progressive colored glasses (that would be red in color for the tint of communism).

  9. Alan

    January 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    LSD, I’m (still) seriously concerned about your state of mental health. Have you considered talking with someone about your issues? If you spent more time job hunting than you do here things may be a little better for you, and the voices in the head may not be quite as loud.

  10. ML

    January 19, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I know math isn’t Alex or lsd’s forte, but I think that’s 4 against 1. I think you’re the one spinning.

  11. LayintheSmakDown

    January 20, 2015 at 10:41 am

    My mental health is fine but I think ML you need to count as there are only four progressives and two regular folks who even bother to read this piddly site. And I am mainly here for trolling and watching you guys go into hysterics.

  12. Alan

    January 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Oh, we’re in hysterics for sure, but you are the one on the receiving end.

  13. ML

    January 20, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Five would include the author of this post.

  14. LayintheSmakDown

    January 20, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I don’t count her as the admitted paid writer for Fitzy. You other guys just get paid to troll and go into hysterics and don’t admit it.

  15. Alan

    January 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    For a “piddly site”, you sure do spend a lot of unproductive time commenting on it…

  16. LayintheSmakDown

    January 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I am glad you admit being here is unproductive. Too bad I don’t get paid by Fitzy like you.

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