A new report from the Southern Education Foundation focuses in on children living in extreme poverty–those from families with incomes of less than half of the poverty line, or $11,000 for a family of 4. 5.7 million American children–or 7.9% of people under age 18–live in extreme poverty. And the numbers are getting worse in the current economic downturn. Troubling news, and relevant to the reform conversation.
This report also draws particular attention to the challenges facing rural communities, where some of the highest rates of extreme child poverty are found–particularly in the South. Rural schools don’t get a lot of attention in education reform debates, which tend to focus on urban school districts. But many disadvantaged and minority children live in rural communities and attend rural schools that are failing them just as badly as their urban peers. We need to make sure we don’t ignore the unique challenges and reforms needed in these schools and the students they serve when we talk about education reform.
Sidenote: The SEF report cites a 2001 documentary, LaLee’s Kin, about extreme poverty and educational failure in the rural South. In a year when education documentaries are getting a lot of attention, I’d really like to see this one. But it doesn’t seem to be available on DVD. If anyone has any ideas for how it might be viewed, please e-mail me at myfirstnameATbellwethereducation.org).