|In the southern tier, only Arizona escapes the worst category|
Study: Poor children are now the majority in American public schools in South, West
By Lyndsey Layton, Published: October 16 E-mail the writer
A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country.
The analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, is based on the number of students from preschool through 12th grade who were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program in the 2010-11 school year.
Low-income students made up at least half the public school student population in 17 states in 2011, a marked increase from 2000, when four states topped 50 percent.
The meals program run by the Department of Agriculture is a rough proxy for poverty, because a family of four could earn no more than $40,793 a year to qualify in 2011.
Children from those low-income families dominated classrooms in 13 states in the South and the four Western states with the largest populations in 2011, researchers found. A decade earlier, just four states reported poor children as a majority of the student population in their public schools.
But by 2011, almost half of the nation’s 50 million public-school students — 48 percent — qualified for free or reduced-price meals.
But clearly, just from looking at how low incomes are concentrated in warmer weather states, much has to do with demographic change, especially the long run effects of immigration.
Only New Hampshire remains with less than 30% of public school students not qualifying for reduced price lunches.