A Decade in the Wrong Direction: Wisconsin Student Poverty Rate Increases for the 10th Consecutive Year
A recent release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reports upsetting news concerning the state’s student poverty rate. The percentage of Wisconsin children representing low-income families has increased for yet another year.
In the 2013-14 school year 43.3 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. Although this is only an increase of one-tenth of a percentage from the previous academic year, it is important to note that this pattern of seemingly small increases over the past decade has led to a near 14 percentage increase in the number of Wisconsin’s children who are from low-income families and thus, eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Students who are in families with an annual income that is less than 130% of the federal poverty level quality for free school meals, while students in families earning more than the 130% but less than 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible to receive reduced-price lunches. For the 2013-14 academic year, a student belonging to a family of four earning less than $30,615 would qualify for free school lunches, and a student belonging to a family of four earning more than the above amount but less than $43,568 would qualify for reduced-price school lunches.
Over 50 percent of students in Wisconsin’s largest school districts are from low-income families, with alarming rates such as 82 percent of students in Milwaukee Public Schools and 63 percent of students in Racine Unified.
Students are already given their share of challenges in school, but students from low-income families often face additional stressors outside of the classroom that have proven to negatively impact their education. The increasing rate of student poverty in Wisconsin introduces more obstacles for Wisconsin schools as well and the state’s economy in the long run. As poverty continues to negatively affect student’s academic performance, it is likely that they will reach lower levels of educational attainment and potentially harm their chances at being adequately educated members of Wisconsin’s work force. In a nation where proper education is considered by most as a standard, it is essential that additional stressors, such as poverty, are addressed in the best interest of our students.