Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Poverty Statistics Make Clear the Dire and Immediate Need for School Choice

On the heels of news released today that the nation’s poverty rate hit 15.1 percent last year—the highest level in 17 years—we’re gaining more and more insight into the plight of the large swath of the nation’s low-income families.

The total number of people living below the poverty line of $22,314 is at the highest level in the recorded history of the statistic. But those numbers apply to everyone. Things get even worse when you dig a bit deeper:
  • Although all demographic groups saw  equal or higher proportions of people living in poverty, rates are significantly higher for Hispanics and blacks, who saw the largest increases from the previous year
  • The poverty rate for children sits at a staggering 22 percent
  • Among Hispanic children, the poverty rate is 35 percent. Among black children, it’s an unfathomable 39 percent
According to Joan Entmacher, the vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, there exist a host of fundamental problems about the environments in which so many recession-ravaged families are growing up:
Behind today’s grim statistics are real people who are finding it harder than ever to…give their children a chance at a better life.
More than any set of sweeping data in recent history, these statistics sound a vociferous clarion call about the need to save our country’s children—predominantly minority, predominantly urban-dwelling, and low-income—from the difficulties that lie ahead on the path down which they’re traveling.

And how can we best do that? By improving the education these kids are receiving.

Take a look at the graph below; it shows that sad correlation between growing up in poverty and failing to graduate high school (and thanks to the human rights blog located here for the great images!).

But it’s not just about graduating from high school—it’s what happens after that which really tells the tale. The average income shoots up nearly $10,000 by simply completing high school, and the successive steps based upon college completion and attainment of an advanced degree are even more staggering. Here are those stats:

And it’s not just something that manifests itself in high school; the seeds of educational inequality as a result of poverty are planted as early as kindergarten.

Should we be resigned to waiting for a system to improve when it comes to these students? Should we be content with nearly two out of every five black children in America growing up in poverty, and by extension, not attaining the education they need to escape their troubled upbringings? Of course not.

It’s time we but into action the words we use to talk about how fed-up we are with these statistics. It’s time we reverse the direction in which these numbers are traveling. It’s time we allow low-income kids to escape the neighborhoods where overwhelming majorities of these poverty-stricken families are located.

It’s time we offer them a chance. It’s time we give them school choice. Find out how you can help today.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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