Low-income students now constitute the majority of schoolkids in public schools in the United States, the Southern Education Foundation reports.
That is shameful in a country known throughout the world for its prosperity. National Center for Education Statistics data show that in 2013, 51 percent of students in U.S. public schools were eligible for free or reduced lunches.
“Most of the states with a majority of low-income students are found in the South and the West,” the foundation reports. “Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low-income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.”
In Missouri, 45 percent of the public school students were low income. In Kansas it was 48 percent. Mississippi was the highest with 71 percent of its public school students being low-income kids, and New Mexico was second with 68 percent.
These are grim numbers, indicating a bleak future for America. It also shows that President Barack Obama is right to focus his political capital in the next two years on helping middle- and low-income families.
Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night will offer incentives to help American families. Getting the Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass such legislation will be Obama’s challenge the remainder of his presidency.
But even Republicans have to pay attention to the growing disparity of wealth. An Oxfam International report says that by 2016, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population will own more than half of the world’s wealth by 2016.
That wouldn’t be good for anyone.