Poverty’s Adverse Effect on Education

America has to deal with the serious issue of poverty and its affect on education performance.

Jacob Rutzick, Staff Writer

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Kids in poor communities, such as San Perleta, Texas and North Bolivar, Mississippi, often do not receive proper education from their local public schools, leaving them in a life-long cycle of poverty. A proper education is defined as education that fully fits the learning needs of every student, and allows the student to succeed as an adult. Poor education results from the lack of high quality teachers and adequate school supplies, usually due to insufficient funding. What can America do to fix this problem? What can individual citizens do to help the students? How can poorly equipped teachers help their kids learn in new and creative ways? How can poorly funded school districts close the gap between themselves and the more affluent areas? These questions have plagued public education for decades. To be sure, many complex issues must be solved before poverty’s effect on education can be fully erased in the U.S. One major opportunity is neither complex nor particularly expensive: state governments should immediately create programs to provide after-school volunteer tutoring for students in poor school districts.

Poverty has been a serious problem in the United States for decades. Minorities have been the most impoverished groups in the U.S. throughout its existence. Currently, 20 percent of African-Americans in the U.S. are impoverished, meaning they live below the federal poverty line (“Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity”). Also, 22 percent of American Indians, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 13 percent of mixed-race people live in poverty, compared to only 8 percent of white people (“Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity”). The percent of minorities 25 years or older with four years of high school education is 10 percent lower than that of white people (Snyder). Forty three percent of African Americans with no high school diploma live in poverty (Fay). Those who grow up in poverty have a lower chance of graduating from high school and therefore a higher chance of experiencing poverty later in life.

States are responsible for 45.1 percent of education funding, local districts are responsible for 44.8 percent, while the federal government only gives 10.1 percent of funding (“How much money does our school district receive from federal, state, and local sources?”). Thirty four states are spending less money on education today than they did before the 2008 recession despite the fact that the economy is doing better now than it was before the recession (DePillis). This problem is worse for low-income districts because local funding depends on property taxes paid in that specific district (Chen). Poorer districts collect less property tax than wealthier areas. This disparity gives many affluent districts almost double the funding of poorer communities. Many states attempt to offset the difference with additional payments to poorer districts, but these subsidies are not enough to make up the gap (Chen). In 17 states, the government tends to neglect the poorest districts that need the most help (Chen). This problem is most prevalent in the south where school funding is low and stagnant (Chen). The worst funded states also tend to short-change early childhood education, which demonstrably improves the lives of impoverished children (Chen). Many states also have other major issues such as low teachers wages, high turnover rates, and major gaps in staffing (Chen). Overworked teachers have a hard time dealing with the high student to staff ratio which leaves too little class time to give individual attention to every student, resulting in below-average district wide performances (Chen).

Individual states must sponsor after-school volunteer tutoring programs for low-income students. First, after-school programs keep low-income students engaged for more of the day. Second, working with a tutor three times or even once a week can create a special bond with an adult that low-income students often lack (“Exploring the Link Between Poverty and Education”). Third, after-school tutoring can help students in poor school districts make up ground on higher-income students who have the opportunity to take AP classes. One of the main reasons low-income students do not succeed is because they can not take high level courses (Mattingly), but with a tutor’s help these students can learn high level material. Finally, this solution is comparatively more affordable than any other proposed solution to poverty. On average, state governments spend $11,762 on every student (Education Spending Per Student by State), so asking them to spent millions more for expensive programs is not feasible. However, allocating small amounts to fund volunteer programs is very practical.