Child Poverty and Inequality… and Budget Cuts at State and Federal Levels

“When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely, later in life, to have low earnings, commit crimes, and have poor health… There is significant evidence that poverty has lasting consequences for kids, including educational achievement, cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral outcomes.”  —John Irons, economist, Economic Policy Institute: “Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession,” September 30, 2009

Children, unable to support themselves, count on their families, their communities, their states, and their nation to ensure their well being.  Taxes are the way we have historically provided quality education, safe and vibrant communities, healthy families, and broadly-shared prosperity, especially when families are unable to provide economic security for children.

Although the federal government can borrow in hard times, states and localities must balance their budgets every year.  In order to balance their books, states have been slashing programs including many that provide essential services for children and youths. Early in 2009, the federal government stepped in with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the huge federal stimulus that made large grants to stabilize state and local programming.  However, this infusion of funds has run out, and state governments continue to eliminate or seriously reduce services we all take for granted.  

The UCC’s General Synod 25 declared, “that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens; that government policy and services are central to serving the common good; that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses; and that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means…”

 Although the economy has begun to recover, states find themselves in the midst of a serious and continuing economic recession. One impact of the recession is that tax revenues have declined along with the decline in the overall economy: foreclosures have reduced revenue from property taxes; job losses have decreased revenue from income taxes; and the economic slowdown itself has diminished revenues from inventory and sales taxes. 

Poverty, Inequality and Public Education

April 27, 2013: Sean Reardon, the Stanford University educational sociologist who has done more than most anyone else to challenge the test-and-punish philosophy of current education reform, writes here in a friendly, informative piece, No Rich Child Left Behind.  His point: we live in an era when income inequality privileges wealthy children and contributes to an enormous wealth-inequality achievement gap.  Reardon’s academic research documents that children growing up in extreme wealth and children growing up in extreme poverty are more and more likely to be segregated in very wealthy or very poor communities and much less likely to live in mixed income communities than was true forty years ago.  A growing income-inequality school achievement gap tracks this growing segregation.  UCLA professor, Mike Rose, who has been writing about educational inequality for a long time responds to Reardon’s article here.

March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?

February 16, 2013:  Here is Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz writing about declining social mobility, growing inequality, and the danger of losing the American Dream and a related Economic Justice Note from Edie Rasell, the UCC’s Minister of Economic Justice.  Also related is a recent UCC Witness for Justice column, American Fantasy.

February 19, 2013: A Congressionally appointed Equity and Excellence Commission that has been meeting for two years released its report, For Each and Every Child. Acknowledging that test-based accountability has not sufficiently improved public schools in America’s poorest communities, members of the Commission declare that our society must address what is a deplorable 22 percent child poverty rate, highest in the industrialized world.

October 2012: Here is an important new article from education writer and respected researcher David Berliner, Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth. This is a plea to our society to address the devastating impact of family poverty and economic inequality on the life chances of too many of our children. Child poverty in the United States remains 22 percent, far higher than any other industrialized nation, and economic mobility has declined in our society that has become increasingly stratified along economic lines.

The 2012 Justice & Witness Ministries Message on Public Education, “Why the Conventional Wisdom on School Reform Is Wrong and Why the Church Should Care,”  examines school achievement through the lens of two issues of particular importance as the economy lags: family poverty and racial isolation.

Budget Cuts Threaten Public Education

May 23, 2013:  Ongoing inequality in Pennsylvania school funding, debates about union contracts, and discussions of privatization wreck havoc on the public schools in Philadelphia: Who’s Still Killing Philly Schools? The Status Quo is Now State Control and Permanent Crisis.

March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?

Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Programs: Will We Cut or Enrich Programming?

February 13, 2013: In his State of the Union message, President Obama proposed expanding government subsidized pre-Kindergarten for children in poor and moderate-income families.  Expanding access to early education should be a priority, as it is known that the achievement gap widens well before children enter Kindergarten. 

November 2012: William Mathis, at the National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, briefly summarizes the research and makes a strong case for expanding Preschool Education to make it universally available across the states. Mathis warns, “However, in inflation adjusted dollars, overall funding per child served is lower than a decade ago.”

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool 2011, an annual report, describes cuts in funding, for the second straight year, in 26 of the 39 states with public prekindergarten programs.  These cuts are due to state budget shortfalls.

Writing for The Center on Law and Public Policy, Hannah Matthews reports Recent Child Care Growth to Fade; Startling Drop in Assistance Projected.