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How lawmakers have failed students living in poverty

How lawmakers have failed students living in poverty

50 years after President Johnson’s War on Poverty, the 2014 budget still falls short of helping students most in need

poverty

As the child poverty rate has ballooned in the U.S. over the last few years, our political will to combat this problem hasn’t responded in kind.

Fifty years after President Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” there is broad disagreement over whether the nation’s anti-poverty measures have been a success.

But when you compare rising child poverty rates with stagnant funding for programs such as Title I, one thing seems clear: Congress isn’t doing enough to help our poorest children.

This month, a highly partisan Congress came together and passed a budget for fiscal 2014. Sure, lawmakers were three months late with their action—but most pundits applauded them for putting aside their differences and passing a reasonable bill.

There was much to like about the final 2014 budget, if you’re an educator. For instance, it includes more money for early childhood education—and it rolls back most of the cuts from sequestration that have been so devastating to many schools.

But forgive me if I’m not impressed. While educators certainly will welcome getting back nearly 90 percent of the funding lost to sequestration, the truth is that the 2014 budget still falls short of providing for our nation’s most vulnerable students. And Title I funding is a perfect example.

Established as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the federal Title I program was a cornerstone of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.

A large percentage of K-12 funding comes from local property taxes, meaning that students in wealthier neighborhoods enjoy higher per-pupil funding than their peers in other schools. Title I was meant to offset this disparity and give poor children a more level playing field for their education.

But as the number of U.S. children living in poverty has risen, Title I funding hasn’t kept pace—especially in the last few years.

(Next page: How Title I funding compares to rising child poverty rates)

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