If you are an American who believes that our nation’s best days are behind us, here is a startling and depressing report from the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) that will support your opinion.
First, what is the SEF? It is the nation’s oldest education philanthropy with a mission statement stating the following:
The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) is a public charity whose mission is to advance equity and excellence in education in the American South.
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This week, the SEF released a report based on 2011 data titled “A New Majority: Low Income Students in the South and the Nation.”
The key finding is that low-income children now comprise a majority of students in the public schools of 17 states across the nation — and 13 of those states are in the South. Even more depressing was the fact that 48% of school children qualified as low income nationally.
So does this 48% mean that the USA is an emerging third-world nation?
Maybe, but before that question is definitively answered, it is important to acknowledge that the numbers used in SEF’s study to determine a child’s low-income status were based solely on the number of students receiving either free or reduced school lunches.
Certainly that criterion may have some flaws since our government excels at handing out food benefits. But if you were to downplay those numbers, looking at the chart above leads one to conclude that if even slightly less than 48% of our nation’s children are living at or near poverty levels, then our nation’s future is still tragically “at risk.”
This is especially true when the chances of an American child escaping poverty through hard work and education seem to be less than at any time in our recent past.
Certainly upward mobility is still possible, but statistically the “American Dream” is becoming more challenging to achieve if you are born poor. The hard fact is that poverty tends to breed more poverty.
Furthermore, the long-term consequences of 48% of public school children learning to depend on government as part of their daily education is a lesson plan for national failure.