New Poverty Numbers Are Devastating

A Devastating Kids Count

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count reports that nearly 8 million children in the United States live in areas of “concentrated poverty,” defined as at least 30 percent of residents living below the federal poverty level—about $22,000 for a family of four.

That’s 11 percent of children in the country, and it’s 25 percent more than lived in concentrated poverty in 2000. What makes this even more alarming and is perhaps a testament to the proliferation of low-wage work and concentration of wealth—75 percent of these kids have at least one parent working in the labor force.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and data at the foundation, said she finds the new data “particularly disturbing” because the long-term trends have taken such a turn for the worse. Between 1990 and 2000, concentrated poverty was reduced and things were moving in the right direction. But the decade between 2000 and 2010 tells a different story.

“Poverty is re-concentrating,” she told me. “There’s more segregation in terms of income in the US and this can have really bad impacts for kids.”

As the report notes, families living in areas of concentrated poverty are more likely to face food hardship, have trouble paying their housing costs and lack health insurance than those living in more affluent areas. Children are “more likely to experience harmful levels of stress and severe behavioral and emotional problems than children overall.” Even children in middle- and upper-income families living in areas of concentrated poverty are 52 percent more likely to fall down the economic ladder as an adult.

“Part of what we want to reinforce is the concept that children don’t grow up in isolation,” said Speer. “They are affected by both their family’s resources and also very much impacted by the community in which they live. The community is critically important because it really does for many kids equate to the opportunities that they have access to.”

The states with the highest rates of children living in concentrated poverty are in the south and southwest, while Detroit (67 percent), Cleveland (57 percent) and Miami (49 percent) have the highest levels among the nation’s fifty largest cities.
The Nation

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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Educational policy in the Obama era isn't about education at all. It's about replacing skilled, experienced teachers with rootless temps better suited to serve in the privatized holding tanks they wish to turn public schools in poor neighborhoods into, for a population on its way to low wage jobs and prisons.


We Need To Hear The Voices Of The Students!

Yesterday there was a twitter chat --#SOSChat-- that I spent a little time checking out and participating in. It was a chance for those of us concerned with education reform and the damage it's doing to get together to figure out how best to move forward; what will SOS look like? What should we do next? Where should we focus? It's the kind of stuff a grassroots organization needs to do, and it was extremely helpful.

For a while now I have been doing Blog Talk Radio, both my own shows and as a guest on other shows (there's a link at the top of this blog) as a way to spread the word about the dangers of the current reform proposals and the nonsense Michelle Rhee spouts about LIFO and tenure, among other things. Doing the radio shows is fun and a great way to meet new folks and have meaningful discussions and disseminate information.

A while back I had the thought that it would be a good idea to include the voices of actual kids --students-- in the mix. I never really tried to do it. I talked with my 14 year old and some of his friends and I know they have opinions about reform, but they are 14 and getting them to commit was something I didn't even really try very hard to do, so it never happened. My bad.

Well, after the #SOSChat I realized that we anti-reformers are pretty much all over the place in terms of strategy ideas to spread the word. There are a million suggestions that I won't go over here. But there are two suggestions I have that occurred to me as I was participating in the chat:

1. Numbers. Numbers matter. Stephen Krashen made the point that Lady GaGa has 2 million followers and Diane Ravitch only in the thousands. I agree that's ridiculous, considering there are two million teachers in America. Want to impress? Get Diane's follower count up into the millions. Krashen's too.

I have a feeling there are about a million teachers who aren't on twitter. Find them. Get them on twitter, even if just to Follow Diane and then never tweet again.

2. The public think teachers suck--in the aggregate. People like their own teacher, think less of other teachers in the school, even less of others in the district, even less of others in the state, and even less of teachers nationally. It's just like congress where you like your congressperson but hate congress.

Therefore, I have determined, our voices are pretty much moot. They are not really that helpful. We need the voices of others--a proxy. Parents are a good proxy.

Kids are better. Interview kids.
So I want to interview public school students on Blog Talk Radio. I want teenagers to tell the public what they see their teachers dealing with. I want to hear what the teachers do for these kids, or what they don't do. I want kids to tell me what they like about school and what they think should change. I want to hear honest assessments of what life on the ground in public school is like for teenagers.

But that's not all. I want young kids too! Yes, like 2nd grade! When I taught 2nd grade I always had a few kids who could easily do their own radio show if given the chance. Surely there are some young kids who could handle a half-hour interview.

I will need parent input and permission. It can all be done over the phone and by email.

Are you interested in being interviewed? Are you a parent of a student who might be interested? Get in touch.

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