By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress and the nation and declared an “unconditional” war on poverty in America. His Economic Opportunity Act promised a better life to those living “on the outskirts of hope,” and at the heart of that promise was education.
Sadly, the decades since have produced an even greater gulf between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots, between the well-educated and the poorly educated. And the hardest-hit victims of this failure to eradicate poverty are our nation’s children.
A 2013 Educational Testing Service (ETS) report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, clarifies just how widespread and damaging the condition of poverty is for children. It reminds us that in addition to communities where generational poverty is baked into the culture, there is a fresh class of situational poor, casualties of the new century’s housing and employment downturns.
The report reveals that 22 percent, or one-fifth, of American children are living in poverty, and 2.8 million of those live in “extreme poverty” on less than $2 a day. The report also reiterates that poverty engenders numerous related disadvantages, including growing up in single-parent homes, being exposed to toxins that lead to health issues, food insecurity, and ...