Rising income inequality in the U.S. has produced a startling statistic: 51% of U.S. public school children in pre-K through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunches in the 2012-2013 school year according to a report from the Southern Education Foundation.
The increase in needy children in the U.S. threatens has become a bigger issue for researchers and policy makers. According to Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post:
“The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, more than half of the children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home to succeed, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.
It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the swelling ranks of needy children arriving at the schoolhouse door each morning.
Schools, already under intense pressure to deliver better test results and meet more rigorous standards, face the doubly difficult task of trying to raise the achievement of poor children so that they approach the same level as their more affluent peers.”
Latino and black children are more impacted by poverty than their white peers. In 2011, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report showing that Latino children lead the nation in childhood poverty constituting over 27 percent of poor children in the U.S. The high childhood poverty rate in the U.S. also reflects a broader policy failure for law makers. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, and it has managed to leave its most valuable human resource at risk.