As I was reading one of the blogs that I follow, I came across a statistic that claimed that over half our public school students here in the United States qualify for free and reduced lunches because they are poor.
And I thought to myself, is that possible? The wealthiest, most powerful country in the world sends one half of its public school students to school hungry? And so I did some research on my own and discovered that in this school year, most public school students are racial minorities, and more than half come from low-income backgrounds, living in or near poverty…and that’s according to the latest federal data!
The Southern Education Foundation found that on average 51 percent of students across the country were low-income, with more than half of the students in 21 states qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. In fact More than 31 million children participated in the National School Lunch program in 2012, with the majority qualifying for free lunches.
More than 16 million children or 22% of all children under the age of 18 in the United States are living in poverty! And most go to school hungry and what are we doing for them? We are testing them! To try and find out why their scores in math, science and language aren’t competitive with the children of Finland or with other children living in the developed world…when we are the last out of 35 developed countries in our child poverty rate. (and not last in a good way, but rather as in the worst)
But the truth of the matter is our students already are competitive! And in most cases our students score better then children in the rest of the world…when you read the data correctly and notice that comparing all of the students in Finland where the child poverty rate is 4% to all of the children in the United States, where the child poverty rate is 22%…just isn’t fair.
When you remove our poor, hungry and tired students’ scores from the comparison, and only compare students of like socioeconomic backgrounds… and nourishment… our students out perform Finland! But if you want to compare all of America’s students to the students living in countries with poverty levels similar to our own then you need to compare us to countries like Romania, Latvia or Bulgaria, because, believe it or not, those are the countries that we most resemble!
And guess what? When it comes to the Hunger Games…our students score better than those countries too!
So we don’t need to test our children more! We need to feed them more! We need to provide them with better housing, better clothing, better opportunities, better living conditions. What we lack here in the United States and what we don’t provide to 22% of our children is EQUALITY! and that’s what sets us apart from comparing ourselves to places like Finland and Sweden and France. They are countries of equality. We are a country of INequality.
We are firing administrators. Laying off school teachers. Slashing budgets. Cutting salaries. Closing schools, eliminating programs and cutting supplies all in what we say is an effort to provoke, prod, motivate, hound, badger, goad, inspire and frighten our schools into “doing better”, “scoring better”, and “catching up to”, the Asians and Europeans when what our children and our schools really need is to be lifted out of poverty, relieved of hunger and properly housed.
But instead poverty, our country’s greatest problem, is the one problem that is always most ignored. Case in point: In the findings of a previous report from the foundation, the number of America’s low-income students in the last decade has grown at a rate three to four times greater than the increase of per-student spending in most of the country. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in October found that 30 of 47 states analyzed were spending less per student this year…than they did before the recession! And while America’s measured wealth has grown by 30 trillion dollars in the past 6 years!
And in fact the number of public school students from low-income backgrounds, has steadily grown from less than 32 percent in 1989, to over 50% today. So regardless of how you and your family live in today’s America, the reality is that in the year 2015, America’s children are mostly poor…hungry…tired…homeless…or soon to be all of the above. How’s that for a multiple choice questionnaire?
And testing them six ways to Sunday is a sad, sick, misdirected strategy that won’t solve the problem, make it any less true nor make it go away.