Report: 1 in 5 public schools classified as “high-poverty”

The number of public schools serving majority low-income students is up 60 percent since 2000

Topics: Poverty, Education, sequester cuts, Sequestration, education funding, Students, low-income families, , ,

Report: 1 in 5 public schools classified as "high-poverty" (Credit: Shutterstock)

A new report released by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that nearly one in five public schools was considered high-poverty in 2011, a 60 percent increase since 2000. Schools are considered high-poverty when 75 percent or more of enrolled students qualify for free or subsidized lunch.

Growing poverty levels among families served by public schools is all the more troubling when considered alongside recent budget cuts for vital education programs, like Title I funding for teaching staff and services at high-poverty schools, after-school programs and summer lunch.

Schools in Topeka, Kan., are among many districts nationwide hurt by the sequestration, as the Associated Press recently reported:

Kansas school districts face the loss of about $7.2 million in federal funding this coming school year for its high-poverty schools, according to the state Department of Education…

Tammy Austin, executive director of administration for Topeka Unified School District 501, said cuts in Title I for her district were equivalent to 13 teachers’ salaries and benefits. “It’s devastating,” Austin said. “What’s difficult is you’re expecting something and then it’s not there, and something’s got to give…”

The state education department is facing its own cuts in Title I funds and estimates it is losing about $100,000 for administration related to Title I programs. The department also said the cuts will mean $1.4 million less in funding used to help schools that have either low scores on state math and reading tests or wide achievement gaps in their student body.

The NCES report also found that unemployment among men and women without a high school degree is much greater than statistics for those with at least a bachelors degree:
In 2012, for example, the unemployment rate for young adults (ages 20–24) was 27.6 percent for those who did not complete high school, 18.3 percent for those whose highest level of education was high school completion, and 12.7 percent for those with some college education, compared with an unemployment rate of 6.0 percent for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Katie McDonough is an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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