According to a new study by the Southern Education Foundation [pdf], the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, 48 percent of all public school children across the nation were eligible for free or reduced lunch in 2011.*
- The rate of low income students in the South was 53 percent – the highest rate among the regions of the nation.
- For the first time in recent history, at least half of the public school students in the West were low income. (The Midwest had the next highest rate, 44 percent, and the Northeast had a rate of 40 percent).
- The nation’s cities have the highest rates of low income students in public schools. Sixty percent of the public school children in America’s cities were in low income households in 2011. The Northeast had the highest rates for low income school children in cities: 71 percent.
- Fifty-two percent of all students attending public schools in America’s towns (located outside urban and suburban areas) were eligible for free or reduced meals in 2011.
And the conclusion:
Within the next few years, it is likely that low income students will become a majority of all public school children in the United States.With huge, stubbornly unchanging gaps in learning, schools in the South and across the nation face the real danger of becoming entrenched, inadequately funded educational systems that enlarge the division in America between haves and have-nots and endanger the entire nation’s prospects.
*Students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at public schools if they live in households in which the income is 185 percent or less than the poverty threshold. In 2011, for example, a student in a household with a single parent with an annual income of less than $26,956 was eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch at a public school.