Poverty in education is more of an issue than many people realize. According to the “Color of Child Poverty” article found on Course Den, 2006 Census Bureau findings showed that in 2005, 4.5% of white children under 18 in two-parent households and 12.5% of blacks in the same group live in poverty. The poverty rates rose to 33% and 50.1% respectively for children under 18 who live with single mothers. While the poverty rate drastically increases when we look at children in single-mother homes, it is not necessarily the mothers to blame but rather the societal constructs of today. That said, it is unfair to say that it is only the children of single-mothers that suffer the effects of poverty. Poverty also effects children in lower income family who live with both parents. Regardless of family structure, poverty effects all children in a similar way. Children who live in poverty are more likely to be exposed to toxins and unstable living conditions.Poverty often necessitates low-income or rental housing which, more often than not, is not found in areas of pristine environmental cleanliness. Most of time such housing is found near industrial plants, treatment facilities, and other environmentally unsound areas. Living in such areas can lead to excessive or prolonged illness in children which can lead to lack of attendance in school. Children in low-income families often spend significantly less time with their parents than their financially stable peers. Since their parents often work multiple jobs in order to provide food, shelter, and clothing, children in low-income families are often left to their own devices when it comes to homework and other school related tasks. The lack of parental assistance is often discouraging for children, which can lead them to believe that either their education is not a top priority or that said education can do little to help them in the future. Many of these children go to school each day not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
I am in no way saying that the above description is the case for all impoverished students – I have seen first hand the effects of such situations and am well aware that income does not always directly correlate with poor academic achievement, but in most cases it does. With so many children living at or below the poverty line, it is naive to say that we have the situation under control. There are many adjustments and programs that can be put into effect to help alleviate the effects of poverty on students, some of which include free or reduced price lunches and other supplemental snacks, free/extra tutoring – especially in core subjects, and providing resources to families in, or at risk of being in, poverty.
Nutrition is a major factor when it comes to a student’s ability to focus and be successful in school. By providing students of low income and impoverished families with reduced price or free lunches, we are insuring that the students receive at least one balanced meal a day. It would also be beneficial to provide breakfast for those students identified as members of low income or impoverished families. It is important, however, that these efforts be carried out somewhat discretely as to avoid embarrassment on the part of the student.
Another way we can assist such students is by providing extra assistance when we see them struggling. Often times, students are embarrassed when they are unable to perform at the same level or with the same ease as their classmates. It is important that we encourage these students and help them to live up to their potential. Yes, this may lead to extra hours on our part, but by doing so we are not only encouraging our students, but also reminding them of the value of their education – one day they may be able to leave the life of poverty due to said education.
Perhaps one of the most important ways we can help financially struggling students is by providing them and their families with resources that would enable them to access programs such as SNAP (food stamps), energy assistance, CHIP (children’s health care), and unemployment. It is also important that when we point the families and students towards these resources that we do so without being judgmental and do so in a rather discrete manner – often times families in these situations are more ashamed of their circumstances than they would be willing to admit.