"When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely, later in life, to have low earnings, commit crimes, and have poor health... There is significant evidence that poverty has lasting consequences for kids, including educational achievement, cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral outcomes." —John Irons, economist, Economic Policy Institute: "Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession," September 30, 2009
Children, unable to support themselves, count on their families, their communities, their states, and their nation to ensure their well being. Taxes are the way we have historically provided quality education, safe and vibrant communities, healthy families, and broadly-shared prosperity, especially when families are unable to provide economic security for children.
UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Resources
This year's 2012 Justice & Witness Ministries Message on Public Education is titled, "Why the conventional Wisdom on School Reform Is Wrong and Why the Church Should Care." This report examines the rhetoric around public school reform and then examines school achievement in light of two issues of particular importance as the economy lags: family poverty and racial isolation.
Poverty and Public Education is a UCC web page that explores the connection of poverty and low school achievement. What must society do to support the schools that serve concentrations of very poor children?
Poverty and Children During the Recession: Major Reports
March 29, 2012: Coalition on Human Needs, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our Economy from Bad Budget Choices. Many of the federal budget choices ahead this year involve programs that must be protected to ensure that children can thrive.
Recent Articles from the Press
March 13, 2013: Reuters reports, Waiting for Recovery: U.S. Public Schools Continue to Lose Jobs.
June 2012: Here is an interactive map of the United States. As you scroll over the states, you can track the poverty rates for all people and for children.
June 2012: Pre-Kindergarten for All? Not By a Longshot explores the impact of the end of the economic stimulus and the crisis in state budgets.
February 9, 2012: New York Times reports new research from Stanford University, Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say.
November, 2011: Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence. The author, Helen Ladd is a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and one of the co-conveners of the Broader, BOLDER Approach to Education.
November 2011: Education sociologist Pedro Noguera explains how poverty and school achievement are woven together and how society can break through in A Broader and Bolder Approach Uses Education to Break the Cycle of Poverty.
Recession Slashes Tax Revenues
The UCC’s General Synod 25 declared, “that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens; that government policy and services are central to serving the common good; that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses; and that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means…”
We find ourselves in the midst of a serious economic recession. One impact of the recession is that tax revenues have declined along with the decline in the overall economy: foreclosures have reduced revenue from property taxes; job losses have decreased revenue from income taxes; and the economic slowdown itself has diminished revenues from inventory and sales taxes.
- March 21, 2012:The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that States Continue to Feel Recession's Impact.
- October 11, 2010: Economic Policy Institute economist, Algernon Austin, reports on the projected impact of pending state budget cuts on vulnerable children and families.
Although the federal government can borrow in hard times, states and localities must balance their budgets every year. In order to balance their books, states have been slashing programs including many that provide essential services for children and youths. Early in 2009, the federal government stepped in with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the huge federal stimulus that made large grants to stabilize state and local programming, but despite this infusion of funds, state governments have been forced to eliminate or seriously reduce services we all take for granted.
Budget Crises Reduce Essential Services for Children and Youths
Our University Systems
On November 19, 2009, the Board of Regents of the University of California raised tuition by 32 percent for all colleges and universities in their system, up $2,500 per year. Thirty-five states have raised tuition at their state colleges and universities and many have reduced available financial aid.
K-12 Public Education
January 30, 2011... Extraordinary NY Times article profiles the impact of parents' job losses and financial insecurity on the academic life at a Worthington, Ohio elementary school. In this story of the children and their teachers, it is possible to feel the ways poverty undermines academic achievement.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have cut K-12 school aid. In November of 2009, state legislatures, meeting to balance budgets, were proposing massive cuts to K-12 public education: a cut of $686 million in New York, $260 million in Colorado, and $382 million in Michigan. Hawaii has shortened the school year by three weeks and furloughed teachers for 17 days this year. Faced with a budget cut of $53 million of a $350 million district budget, the St. Louis Schools have cut teachers and eliminated 17 of the district’s 67 school nurses, whose job now includes medicating severely disabled children. According to economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, quoting the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy has lost 143,000 jobs in state and local education from April-September of 2009.
Children's Health Care
More than half the states have restricted eligibility or increased fees for health care for children or their parents. In Rhode Island, 1,000 low-income parents lost eligibility, and California increased costs for families of a million children in its state children's health insurance program.
Mental Health Services
By August 2009, 32 states had cut community mental health programs by an average of 5% this year. Ohio reduced mental health services this year, including those for youths, by 34 percent.
South Carolina has cut funding to its Department of Juvenile Justice by 25 percent. In California many prisons hold more than twice the number of inmates they were designed for. A federal judge ruled in August that poor health and overcrowding are causing avoidable deaths among prisoners. Riots have ensued. Juvenile facilities are dangerously overcrowded. To realize $12 million in savings, New York plans to close eight youth detention facilities centers and three evening reporting centers for youth offenders.
Enriched Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education
Even though we know that expanding access to enriched pre-Kindergarten and early childhood education programs is essential for closing achievement gaps before they widen (most importantly through vocabulary building and creating an environment rich in reading and literacy activities), the Pew Center on the States reports that state budget deficits in Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Delaware are freezing state investment in pre-K at last year's level. In Ohio, the legislature has severely cut investment in emerging new pre-K programs. Illinois will cut 10,000 eligible children out of pre-K by halting the phase-in of its five year program. The launch of a new pre-K program in Louisiana has been severely cut back.
Cash Assistance for Families in Poverty
Hunger has grown precipitously. The New York Times has reported that "about six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income..." The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) now helps feed one in every eight Americans. In St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, half of all children need and use food stamps. Massachusetts and Arizona have reduced cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or tightened eligibility requirements to reduce participation in the program.
Support Programs for Families with Special Needs
Illinois, Connecticut, and Maine are among states to reduce funding for child welfare, child abuse and foster care programs, mental health, youth services and homeless shelters. Ohio cut the monthly subsidy for parents adopting foster children from $300 per month last year to $235 per month this year.
Public libraries are shortening hours and sometimes being closed due to reduced tax revenues in many states.
Poverty Grows During Recession... Continues to Reflect Racial Inequality
Over 14 million children in the United States lived in poverty in 2008, 44.6% living 50% or more below the federal poverty level. Over 700,000 more children lived in poverty in 2008 than in 2007.
34.7% of black children were poor in 2008.
30.6% of Hispanic children were poor in 2008.
37% of American Indian children were poor in 2008.
14.5% of Asian American children were poor in 2008.
10.6% of white children were poor in 2008.
Huge disparities in overall family wealth divide America. In 2002, long before this recession, white median household net worth was approximately $90,000; Hispanic median household net worth was $8,000; Black median household net worth was $6,000. (American Prospect, September 2009)