St. Louis, MO

Children Living in Poverty: It Is Our Problem Too!!!!!

           Poverty rates for families are climbing.  On September 17th, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Missouri’s poverty rate grew 3.5 times faster than the national average since the 2000 census.  From these statistics, we can see that we have had families in crisis longer than the current recession.  The Post Dispatch further reported that 15.5% of Missouri population lives in ‘official’ poverty.  While I am confident there are an abundance of ‘spin doctors’ who can ‘paint’ these numbers with magic colors to make them look not quite as bleak, in my view poverty is poverty!

            If you look at the threshold of poverty being what qualifies children for free meals at schools or child care centers, a family of four would have an income of $22,050.  We know that poverty is cyclic, with health crises and illiteracy possible factors. Innovative programs to help families have come and gone.

           Yet, in all of my years in education, I have never met a parent who didn’t want something better for his child than what he has had.  

            When I was working with an Even Start program in another state, (Even Start was a multi-service program qualifying adults who had low literacy skills), I had the privilege of knowing a young, single mother who was extremely courageous.  She wanted the best for her children and was committed to self-improvement so she could provide more for her family.  Just as she was on the brink of meeting her goals, she would be hit with another crisis, not a child having a cold, or something short-lived, but rather significant events solidifying her poverty status.  Crises happened about every two weeks—these would be events or situations that would bring you and me ‘down to our knees’. 

        For more of our families, the ‘official’ poverty level is just a paycheck away.  Poverty is no myth and is, in my view, far more extensive than the statistics represent.  That is where the schools and teachers come in, we do not have to make things more difficult for families and children. Schools do not have to be multipliers to the poverty cycle, but can be a haven for children.  Children, from all of our neighborhoods, can have their needs met physically, emotionally and cognitively.  All children can experience success in our schools; as educators it is our job to tackle the complexities of poverty and education!

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