Jan Resseger was on the mark about the problem with U.S. public education when she talked about the lack of money available to poorer school districts (“Education and the Wealth Gap,” interview by Julie Polter, September-October 2012). When those schools fail, even the little they have is taken from them.
Children who live in poverty, almost one out of four children in the U.S., come to school lacking the experiences children in wealthy districts have—things as simple as books or magazines in the home, electricity, clean clothes, parents who have energy to be present to their children, and health care. Kids don’t learn when they are hungry, when their teeth ache, when the adults in the home have gone through all their unemployment benefits and no money is coming in, when they don’t sleep because they share the couch with another child or because they have to stay up while parents travel to night shifts.
Poverty is killing these kids, their families, our communities, our states, and our country. Having worked in parish and agency ministry and public school education, I know firsthand the impact poverty has on the ability to learn. Each day we learn more about the harm living in poverty has on the health of children and their parents.
It is time that we looked at poverty’s impact—on health and on social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Providing a comprehensive education that takes into account all these factors is the only way to change people’s lives.