Wednesday, February 15, 2012
'The Great Equalizer' Doesn't Add Up
"Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects."
That's lead paragraph in a front-page story that ran in The New York Times last week, on February 9. It tells of an often cast aside, but still terrifying fact: children from low-income families are not simply performing worse in school than their more affluent counterparts, but the achievement gap between students from impoverished families and affluent families is actually growing larger.
And one in five children in the United States—that’s 15.8 million young people in total—is living in poverty, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The reality is that the status quo is not working to shorten this gap. Low-income families need educational options to choose an education that will best meet their children’s educational needs.
Education cannot be “the great equalizer” if it is not helping the children who need help most. And when a school is failing them, low-income families often do not have the option to move to a better neighborhood or pay for private school tuition.
But school choice programs are designed for children from low-income families, providing much needed options for thousands of children across the nation.
In fact, 14 programs in 10 states plus the District of Columbia are means-tested or means-preferenced, publicly funded private school choice programs. Family income requirements are often a part of the enrollment process in school choice programs, ensuring that students whose families cannot afford choice independently are given this vital option.
Based on the federal free and reduced-price lunch program or the federal poverty guidelines, these programs collectively serve 147,750 families across the nation.
Sadly, thousands more families don't have a choice in their education. What at all is equal about that?
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG