Poverty is Sabotaging Education in the U.S. Right Now!

Education is a heavily debated topic in the United States. The United States is considered a powerhouse in terms of endearment and opportunity, but we sure do complicate things. The United States is considered the 6th most educated country in the world, but funding is one of the biggest issues facing the American public school system. 

As discussed in our previous blog post, more than 90% of public schools in the country are funded through local property taxes. Essentially, lower income communities suffer the most because low property taxes result in a lesser investment on public schools in their area. The federal government may oftentimes only intervene to assist with school funding based on standardized test scores. Poor school funding results in budget cuts, which can eventually lead to teacher lay-offs, larger class sizes and fewer or diminished programs, services and resources.

Shoddy school funding can lead to a multitude of education disparities by race, gender, ethnicity, etc., that can spider into a number of other issues with our broken education system (Spoiler, this a common trend among any issues associated with education). Education is a basic human right for all, but for vulnerable communities, they often lack representation, status and power

Education advocate Geoffrey Canada discusses in the TED Talk video below, how our education system has not changed in the last 50 years, and how detrimental it is to our ever changing world. He also discusses how these opportunities we pursue for our students and children aren’t offered or available for poor students. Why is he so passionate about his activism? “Because I actually like kids.”

Education is extremely powerful and has the potential to reduce poverty. Not every person without an education is living in extreme poverty, but most of the extremely poor do lack a basic education (Giovetti). “According to UNESCO, if all students in low-income countries had simply acquired basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape extreme poverty” (Giovetti). Imagine that. 

To be clear, I do not wish to dispute the origins of poverty and how to universally combat it. We are zeroing in on the effects of poverty on education only, and I’m sure we can agree that poverty is pretty problematic to the youth of America. There are a few ways education connects to a student’s readiness for the real world, and it is all derived to the socio-economic standard of the school district. 

We are about to unveil a can of worms so bare with me! 

Impoverished communities are more likely to suffer from the School-to-Prison Pipeline, which is a tracking system of students that criminalize deviant or abnormal behavior of students. For example, a minority student is more inclined to receive more severe disciplinary measures for minor infractions, such as talking back to teachers. This can involve premature introductions to the criminal justice system. This is demoralizing and discouraging for students. 

It is the responsibility of an educator to promote inclusivity, confidence and a dedication to learning. Racial, gender, religious, ethnic bias should not influence the narrative of a young child. For example, one of the major disparities in the cycle of poverty is misogyny. When gender inequality in the classroom is addressed, this has a ripple effect on the way women are treated in their communities” (Giovetti). 

 Ask yourself:

  • What fields have an unequal ratio of men to women? Why is that?
  • What fields have an unequal ratio of African-Americans to Caucasians? Why is that?
 

Children living in poverty are also likely to have a higher number of absenteeism or leave school all together, because they are more likely to have to work or care for family members. It can be difficult for students to prioritize education if their home life is unstable. Impoverished communities are often exposed to food of low nutritional value and skipped meals which can lead to delayed brain development and ill concentration. Without proper school funding resulting in budget cuts, it can be difficult for schools to offer counseling services or  extra curricular activities for students to provide support, growth and development. This can be exemplified in the reduction of free lunch programs, after-school programs, etc. This can discourage students from participating in the resources that can inspire and motivate students in lower-income communities.

When socioeconomic policies are implemented in schools, they appear to produce strong academic outcomes and preparedness for the real world. If the policies are proposed to entire district, the mission will uphold better (Kahlenberg and Baur). Districts who have introduced the integration plan have better standardized test scores and graduation rates than others from students of all backgrounds. This can breakdown racial, religious, ethnic and gender prejudices to further promote a more accepting generation! Of course, such policies can be politicized, as all good things are, which can make this approach a bit too idealistic. Unfortunately, it isn’t always as easy as we believe to diversity all schools. 

Let’s backtrack. 

Remember when I mentioned that poor school funding can lead to budget cuts that can involve teacher layoffs? This may be the perfect time to mention that the average salary for a teacher in the United States is a little more than $60,000 in 2018-2019. That sucks. 

There are some devoted, kick-ass educators out there who are devoted to the success of their students. There are bad-ass educators who sacrifice bits of themselves for the students. We need to praise teachers for a hot second. Teachers educate the youth of America, simplifying complex concepts and abstract theories, establishing the basic building blocks needed for the students to excel. They are the catalyst to an improved systematic approach to education equity, and have the potential to transform someone’s life.

Lower income communities with destitute resources for the educators and students don’t really attract teachers. I mean, why would they? Some educators have been overworked and burdened, having to overcompensate for the lack of support from upper level administrators and the school district. It can be emotionally draining. Unfortunately, there can also be some bad apples.  Ill-informed teachers serving a lower-income community may assume that students in a poverty-stricken area are performing poorly because they don’t care or are inherently lazy. Student living in poverty and more likely to suffer from emotional or mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, etc. 

The troubles concerning our education system are deeply correlated with one another, which makes it difficult to isolate specific issues. If I have confused you at all, allow me summarize!

  •  Poverty-stricken communities struggle with under-funded, inadequate environments for students who are forced to settle. The funding for a school district is based on the community’s property income taxes, which is an economic injustice to begin with.
  • Students living in poverty-stricken areas may  have been precluded from better educational opportunities because of their lack of basic essentials at home, or lack of representative consideration or empathy from educators. 
  • Students in lower-income neighborhoods pay suffer from a number of mental and mental issues as they age in an arbitrary, unjust educational system led by frivolous, biased clowns (Hey, Betsy DeVos!) 
  • Educators are not entirely to blame because they are grossly underpaid for their service and devotion to students however, there is no secret to how neglected poorer school districts can be. This may deter more experienced, qualified and talented candidates from considering a position in a lower-income neighborhood.

It’s important to gauge the room and level with your students. This may be easier said than done. I can only imagine how disheartening it can be as an educator to exhaust all efforts and resources just to be  devalued.

As a reader not associated with the world of academia, offer hope, words of affirmation and encouragement to students. School can be an arduous time for many, and graduating high school may be a generational first. Recognize the privilege and authority you have as an educator and/or role model. Then, take charge. Find ways to advocate for your students within your district (See our info-graphic above, and shop our items below!)

At Impact Everything, we sell a few products which support education and the future leaders of America!  

Sources

Giovetti, Olivia. How Does Education Affect Poverty? It Can Help End It. 27 Aug. 2019, www.concernusa.org/story/how-education-affects-poverty/.

Kahlenberg, — Richard D., and — By Alejandra Vázquez Baur. “School Integration in Practice: Lessons from Nine Districts.” The Century Foundation, 14 Oct. 2016, tcf.org/content/report/school-integration-practice-lessons-nine-districts/?gclid=CjwKCAjwr7X4BRA4EiwAUXjbtwiIiRnK9PZglWlR7bBugMzJaUUwzATOhAkG1BsYRZ9cj5A7socsgxoCaXQQAvD_BwE.

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