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October 21, 2013 11:00 AM The Majority of Public School Students in the South and West Are Poor.

By Daniel Luzer

For the first time since the 1960s and the desegregation of public schools the majority of children in public schools in the South and the West are poor. That’s according to a new study released by the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), which also indicated that such trends are likely to spread across the whole country if trends continue.

It’s worth clicking on the study above, particularly to look at the chart of the information, some of which is very surprising. In New Mexico, for instance, 68 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced lunches, which means they come from families living below, at or not far above the poverty line in America. In Mississippi 71 percent of public schools students are poor.

PoorKids

Why has this happened? Well, according to a piece in the Guardian there are three reasons: “high unemployment and an increase in lower-wage jobs; immigration; and a falling birthrate among middle-income families over the last 20 years.”

The report also notes that in the last decade the number of poor kids in public schools increased by 32 percent nationwide. Funding for public schools has increased by 14 percent.

This matters a great deal in terms of the future of public education. In the last decade this country has, for understandable reasons, been trying to reform public schools by measuring the progress of children on standardized tests. We also worry about the future of American by comparing the scores of our children to those in other industrialized nations.

The problem, however, is that arguably the reason American children perform so poorly relative to other industrialized nations is that there are just a lot more poor children in America. And with trends indicating more and more public schools in America are composed of poor kids, the future of school reform is really all about how this country will educate its poor.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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