Blogs

The number of high-poverty schools increases by about 60 percent

Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!

This figure was part of a large data report, The Condition of Education 2013, released by the National Center for Education Statistics on May 23, 2013. There’s a lot to chew on in it. But school poverty jumped out at me as a really depressing data point showing the growing income inequality in America.

Qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch is an imperfect measure of poverty. A mother with two kids who makes under $35,000 a year would be in this group. Certainly, that’s poor family in New York City, but maybe not destitute in Utah. I’ve also heard that many poor families feel that it is such a stigma to accept a discounted or free lunch that they don’t sign up for the program. So the poverty rates in many schools are probably much higher than the official statistics say they are.

Here is the chart of income thresholds to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Letters

Jill Barshay

Jill Barshay is a contributing editor who writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data. She taught algebra to ninth graders for… See Archive

Letters to the Editor

Send us your thoughts

At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover. Please read our guidelines for more information.

By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter.





No letters have been published at this time.