What is the poverty line? Many people would tell you that it’s the “cut-off” point to classify if someone is poor or not.
The poverty line is a metaphor for the financial divisions in society. It doesn't just separate the middle class from the rich because the middle class is nowhere near the rich, and, in many ways, the poor are nowhere near the middle class.
When people talk about “living in poverty,” it often elicits a vision of dirty living quarters, packed full of people living on top of one another, turning to outreach organizations to give them food to eat and clean water to drink, probably straight out of Africa, India or some other third-world country.
And while it is so tragic that such a lifestyle exists, we often forget that many parts of our own are trapped in the grasp of poverty as well.
The fact is, just because we live in a developed country does not mean we are all “wealthy.”
15 million American children live in poverty. That’s 21 percent of the child population, and this startling statistic is not decreasing. Instead, it's rising as the economic gap increases, leaving impoverished areas in the dust.
The people we consider poor are those living in households of, at least, four people whose annual salary is $24,000 or less a year. Keeping in mind that by the time taxes, monthly bills, car payments, credit card debt, loans and other necessities are paid, that leaves very little left for food, causing them to head for the cheapest, most processed options, leading to many being extremely malnourished.
On top of all this, we as Americans are expected to go to college and eventually get a high-paying career, but these people living in poverty are seemingly set up for failure before they even graduate high school. And many don’t pursue higher education at all.
In fact, the percent of low-income students enrolling in college is dropping.
A large reason for this is simply the lack of properly funded education in low-income areas. The elementary and high schools are not setting students up for success because there just aren’t enough resources.
In dealings of education, we should strive to offer every child equal opportunity for success. Does this large education gap appear equal to you?
Education should be a right, not something that has to be fought for or questioned, but for millions of children that isn’t the case.
Educational funding is being slashed. This creates larger class sizes and leaves many teachers stretched too thin, teaching classes they aren’t trained for or are un-passionate about. In the worst-cases, they're left without any job at all.
Special education in particular has been cut drastically. There are so many different learning styles and disabilities that it's hard for one teacher to adapt to all of them, and having paraprofessionals gives the children the attention they need without disrupting the teacher or learning of others. But many schools don’t even have a special education program, leaving already financially burdened parents home to take care of their children.
The lack of education is forcing these students into the same lifestyle as generations before them. Working low-pay labor jobs in retail or fast food, with the rest of their degree-less neighbors.
Many fall victim to “going-nowhere” lifestyles because that is all they know, and they don’t have the resources to change their path. Sure, they can try really hard to get into college, but the public schools in their area simply do not prepare them well enough to compete with others from better-funded areas.
Extra teacher training and additional resources funneled towards poverty hot-spots would make a huge difference. They need materials to effectively teach subjects and get students excited about learning.
These people are no less than us. There are no “better” people or more deserving people. If we truly value equality in this country, like we claim we do, then we need stop ignoring our struggling brothers and sisters.