We’ve passed a sobering milestone in this country. For the first time in at least 50 years, the majority of students in public schools are considered poor. That’s according to a new report from the Southern Education Foundation, which found that more than half of students in 2013 qualified for free and reduced-price lunch at school. Eligibility for free or reduced lunch is a widely-used, if imperfect, measure of poverty.
“This is a defining moment,” says Steve Suitts, the foundation’s vice president.
We tend to think of poverty as a problem concentrated in rural areas or the inner city, he says. Those boundaries are falling away.
“Even in the suburbs, low-income students are now 40 percent of the student population in the public schools,” Suitts says. “It’s everyone’s problem.”
According to the Southern Education Foundation, students are eligible for free meals at public schools if they live in households where the income is no more than 135 percent of the poverty threshold, and reduced-price lunches if household income is no more than 185 percent.
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