November 5, 2007

The following story is taken from “The Covington News” at the following link. References that pertain only to Newton County were edited out of the following article. To read the entire article, go to: Low income students
A look at where Newton County Schools rank
Jenny Thompson, jthompson@covnews.com, 11/2/07

The average percentage of low income students for Jasper County is 61%

A new report written by Southern Education Foundation Program Officer Steve Suitts details the high percentages of low income students in the south as compared with other regions in the nation.

"We wanted to document where we are now as far as children in poverty in the south and address

that regionally by bringing this to the forefront," said Lauren Veasey, SEP associate program officer.

The report called "A New Majority: Low Income Students in the South's Public Schools" looked at how the percentage of low income students in the South has steadily increased from 1989 to 2006 as well as the implications of the growing population of impoverished students in the region.

Compared to the nation

The national average of low income students is 46 percent. In the report, the southern region is comprised of 15 states and the average percentage of low income students for those states stands at 54 percent, or 8 percentage points higher than the national average.

This figure is seven percentage points higher than the region with the second highest low income students - the west with 47 percent of students coming from poor households. Both the Midwestern and northeastern region report 36 percent of their students as from low income families.

Out of the 15 states in the southern region, 11 have more than half of their students coming from low income households. In the west, only three states had 50 percent or more of their students categorized as low income. No state in the northeast or Midwest has more than half of their students living in low income households. The number of low income students also has significantly increased across the nation since 2000. In 2000, four states - Mississippi (63 percent), Louisiana (60 percent), New Mexico (51 percent) and Kentucky (51 percent) - had more than 50 percent destitute students.

Six years later, the number of states with more than half of their student population categorized as low income had jumped to 14 - including Georgia. Louisiana (84 percent), Mississippi (75 percent), New Mexico and Florida (both 62 percent) currently have the highest percentages of poor students.

Georgia's most current figures show 52 percent of the state's students come from low income households.

In the southern region, Georgia fares better than Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. While, Georgia's average is two percentage points better than the south's average, it is six more than the national average.

The smallest counties (less than 1,000 students) in Georgia log the highest percentage of low income students. The highest percentage recorded in Georgia is 94 percent low-come - shared by Baker, Clay, Quitman, Taliaferro and Warren counties.

Fayette and Forsyth counties reported the lowest percentages, both with 14 percent. Both of those counties house more than 20,000 students. Out of the Georgia's 159 counties, 118 have more than 50 percent low income students, 36 have 25 to 50 percent and only five have less than 25 percent.

Veasey of the SEF said the recent increases in impoverished students in the South can be attributed to a number of factors. Reasons include an increase in the Hispanic and black populations - demographics with higher birth rates - of the region, high unemployment rates and high pre-existing rates of southern poverty.

"Also, we definitely saw differences in per-pupil expenditures on students in the south," Veasey said. For example, several states' lowest per student expenditures exceed Mississippi's highest per student expenditures.

"What we've seen in states and systems with higher percentages of low income students are differences in the academic achievement," Veasey said, "such as lower scores on national achievement exams as well as state exams."

Economically disadvantaged students not only post lower scores on standardized tests but also are more likely to drop out of school because of too many courses failed or because they feel they need to earn money by working instead of attending school. "Low educational achievement leads to low pay and it's a cycle that just keeps repeating itself," Veasey said.

In Georgia middle and high schools, newly installed graduation coaches work to identify students at risk of not graduating in four years or at all and make sure they are supported with school services that will put them on the path to a diploma.

Veasey said southern states should set a minimum amount of funding given to schools to even out the disparity in per pupil spending from region to region.

Also read:
“1 in 10 schools are 'dropout factories'” http://www.macon.com/277/story/172441.html

“Poor kids the majority in South's schools” http://www.macon.com/532/story/173012.html


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