Friday, January 16, 2015

More than half of U.S. public school students are low-income; South, West have highest rates

More than 50 percent of U.S. public school students are from low-income families, and some of the highest concentrations of poverty are located in states with large rural populations, says a report by the Southern Education Foundation, Lyndsey Layton reports for The Washington Post. It's the first time in at least 50 years that the majority of public school students are from low-income families.

Overall, 51 percent of public school students were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program during the 2012-2013 school year. Mississippi led the way at 71 percent, Layton writes. New Mexico was second at 68 percent, followed by Louisiana, 65 percent; Oklahoma and Arkansas, 61 percent; Georgia and Texas, 60 percent; Utah and Florida, 59 percent and Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, 58 percent. (To view the interactive post map click here)

Carey Wright, Mississippi’s state superintendent, said providing quality preschool is the key to help poor children, Layton writes. Wright told Layton, “That's huge. These children can learn at the highest levels, but you have to provide for them. You can’t assume they have books at home or they visit the library or go on vacations. You have to think about what you’re doing across the state and ensuring they’re getting what other children get."

The Obama administration "wants Congress to add $1 billion to the $14.4 billion it spends annually to help states educate poor students," Layton writes. "It also wants Congress to fund preschool for low-income children. Collectively, the states and federal governments spend about $500 billion annually on primary and secondary schools, with about $79 million coming from Washington." But many Republicans in Congress have criticized funding preschools. (Read more)

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