60 Minutes ran a disturbing story last night about children in poverty. Nationwide, 20% of children live in poverty (14,657,000 children). To be considered living in “poverty” a family of four must be making less than $22,000 a year. So let’s think about this. In the United States of America, arguably the most prosperous nation that has ever existed, we allow 20% (over 14 million) of our children to live in poverty. I think it is even more instructive to look at different levels of poverty, after all, $22,000 for a family of four is a very low threshold. If we were to look at families that make 150% of the poverty level ($32,000 a year for a family of four) then a staggering 31% of children are living in poverty (23 million).
In Pennsylvania, 8% of children live in extreme poverty (extreme poverty is anyone that lives within 50% of the poverty line [household income of $10,800 for a family of two] and in the United States 9% of children live in extreme poverty) 17% live at or below the poverty line, and about 27% live between the poverty limit and 150% of the poverty limit. In Elk County, 12% of our children live below the poverty line while 25% live between the poverty line and 150% of the poverty line. In Pennsylvania the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour which comes out to just over $15,000 a year in earnings. If a couple with two children were working two minimum wage jobs, their combined income would still have them considered "poverty" because they make less than 150% of the poverty limit.
In our school district we aim to provide education and opportunities that will help all children (including those living in poverty) a chance to move ahead in society. This is a daunting task but one that schools must undertake.