In the 2010-11 school year, more than half of the students in 17 states qualified for free or reduced price lunches. And across the country, nearly half — 48 percent — of public-school children were low income. When the language gap between low-income and higher-income students begins as early as 18 months, this demographic shift has big implications for the success of our nation's students. Almost half of U.S. public-school students may be arriving at school for the first time already behind — with higher chances of falling further behind academically, having lower test scores, dropping out, or being "pushed out" — a finding of the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
The report found that while the number of low-income students is growing rapidly, funding for their education is not, and learning gaps between low-income students and their higher-income peers have persisted.
Katherine Dunn is a program officer with the Southern Education Foundation, a public charity based in Atlanta.
Across all regions of the country, the number of poor students in U.S. public schools has grown substantially over the past decade — by 32 percent nationwide from 2001 to 2011, or more than 5.7 million children. Certainly the 2008 recession compounded this high growth.