Urgent Need for Poor Students

Not enough attention has been paid to how little our state targets additional funding to its students in poverty. And here, by students in poverty, I refer to the students who qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Free & Reduced-Priced Meal Program.

A recent evidence-based consensus of education experts is that students in poverty should receive 30 to 122 percent more than the amount guaranteed to each student.[1]

As the table shows, neither the state’s current or budgeted targeting efforts to students in poverty rise above 11 percent.

And at 25.80%, even the QEC Fully-Funded targeting effort comes up short – Although I believe it would have been higher if the QEC work groups had more time to quantify recommendations regarding extended learning-times outside of the school day and during the summer.

It is urgent that the state increase its funding for students in poverty from the profoundly inadequate level of $744 to the QEC Fully-Funded amount of $3,103 per student.

In our state, students from poor families pay a high price for their poverty. They are overrepresented among students who are not prepared for kindergarten, do not pass state tests, miss too much school, are disciplined, and drop out of school.

Students in poverty in our state are also overrepresented by American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Blacks, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

However, it is not a matter of race, culture or choice that students from poor families, compared to their wealthier peers, generally do not do as well on academic performance measures.

It is a matter of their families not having enough financial resources for even the most basic needs – food, clothing, lodging, healthcare, childcare and education.

Poverty forces families to prioritize their basic needs and to forgo many opportunities to educate and enlighten their children’s minds.[2]

Yet, whether poor or rich, all parents have the same educational goals and desires for their children.

In our own state, you might be amazed at how many poor school districts vote to raise taxes for schools at tax rates that are well above average. I found 107 school districts in Washington state with above-average poverty rates AND above-average levy rates for schools! These 107 school districts with high poverty rates accounted for almost 46% of the state’s student population in school year 2015-16.[3]

And all children are worthy and capable and desirous of an education that will prepare them for our increasingly complex world.

Perhaps you’ve read one of several news stories describing how a happenstance influx of resources into a poor school in our state has dramatically changed the trajectory of the students’ academic careers.[4]

Yes, targeting additional funding to students in poverty can make a difference.

Our state has the power to do this and to bring about a positive and permanent change in the course of many students’ lives.

School districts and the communities they encompass are waiting with thoughtful plans for using these funds.[5]

HOME Next: State Tries to Avoid Compliance


[1] Here is what one well-known school finance expert, Jennifer Imazeki, said about weights for students in poverty and students learning English in her April 11, 2013 blog.

“What are the right weights?

Imazeki (2007) synthesizes the estimates of the marginal cost for poverty and English learners from 16 costing-out studies (i.e., studies that attempt to estimate the costs of achieving an ‘adequate’ level of education). In add-on pupil weight terms, the estimates for poverty range from 0.30 to 1.22.”

“The Getting Down to Facts cost studies done specifically for California (Chambers et al. 2007, Sonstelie 2007, and Imazeki 2007) all establish pupil weights for poverty of at least 30%.”

“The estimates for English Learners range from 0.24 to 1.01. In addition, much of the research that has been in done in various states on the costs of services for English Learners finds marginal costs in the range of 20 to 30 percent. A large determinant of costs is the instructional approach used (e.g., separate ESL instruction versus immersion).” https://edpolicyinca.org/blog/school-finance-101-cost-adjustments-poverty-and-english-learners

[2] This understanding of the impacts of poverty on students is well explained in: Gorski, P. C. (2013). Reading and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap (Multcultural Education Series, James A. Banks, Editor). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

[3]107 School Districts in Washington State have High Poverty Rates AND High Levy Tax Rates

[4] Read about how AVID, http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/avid-is-a-proven-education-investment-in-helping-students-succeed/

the International Baccalaureate Program, http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/more-funding-needed-to-ensure-rainier-beach-high-schools-success/

and other grants and money helped finance academic improvements in struggling schools http://www.seattletimes.com/education/math-concepts-teamwork-big-gains-at-struggling-renton-school/.

[5] For example: Read about the frustrations and plans of Principal Isaiah Johnson of Cascade Middle School in Auburn. http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/whos-failing-its-the-system-not-the-schools/

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