The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.
The amount spent on each student can vary wildly from state to state. States with high student-poverty rates tend to spend less per student: Of the 27 states with the highest percentages of student poverty, all but five spent less than the national average of $10,938 per student.Guess who doesn't spend that amount? Washington State.
We still have people who believe that - no matter what - poverty really doesn't matter. And that really, really bothers me.
We had the head of LEV, Chris Korsmo, during the era of Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, attend an event to discuss the strategic plan. There was lively discussion around the plan.
Charlie had stood up and asked if you switched all the teachers at the high-performing Eckstein with all the teachers at Aki Kurose (then the worst-performing middle schools), would you really believe that you'd see truly different results?
Ms. Korsmo, without identifying herself as the head of a state-wide ed organization, got up and accused people in the audience of saying "poor kids can't learn." (She also went off on a verbal rampage about her own upbringing and its effects. It was quite stunning.)
But her point was, of course, completely untrue.
No one is saying poor children can't learn.
But the truth is that it makes it so much harder and the supports HAVE to be there for these children. It's not just "grit" or a paid-for field trip that will change these children's lives. It's support at every level.