Children who live in poverty usually have a harder time than their peers doing well in school. They are often inadequately dressed, poorly fed, sometimes sleep-deprived, and frequently without support at home for homework, thinking about college, aspiring to professions that excite them. The sharp rise in poverty levels in the past decade and a half is one of the main reasons we are having trouble educating all our students. We need to channel more of our resources toward helping schools that serve high percentages of children living in poverty. The United States stands alone in the developed world in investing more money in schools for advantaged students than in schools for disadvantaged populations. All students have the right to a fair and equal education. It is not fair for some schools to offer dozens of advanced placement courses, arts electives, language options, and extracurricular programs to advantaged students while poorer students in other schools must do without. We need to recognize the role of poverty in dragging down our school systems and we need to change the way in which we fund our schools.
Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.