Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Middle Class Parent and “Those Kids”

By Heather Jung

There are many changes that will be occurring at my school over the next few years.  One of which is that our school building is going to be renovated and enlarged (it was built in the 1950s and last renovated in the 1980s).  A significant increase in English Language Learners (ELLs) and students in poverty will come with the expansion.  We are currently at 34% ELL and 55% free/reduced lunch and we expect to be increasing to around 55-65% ELL and 70-80% free/reduced lunch.  These proposed changes to the demographics of our school have created quite a buzz among both staff and parents.  Some parents welcome the opportunity to have a more diverse school, but other parents are adamantly opposed to having “more of those kids” coming to our school.  It shocking to hear parents saying things like:  “they’re ruining our nice neighborhood school” or “those kids are going to drop our home value by $100,000,”statements which are both inflammatory and inaccurate.  I worry about my neediest students facing such prejudiced comments from the very community that is supposed to be supporting them and my school is not alone in facing this problem.

Nationally, “for the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation” (Layton, 2015).   The reality of public schools now is that working with students from poverty is the norm, not the exception.  Teachers working in public schools have known and accepted this for years.  Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque said, “When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe” (Layton, 2015).  Stories like Sonya’s have been echoed in classrooms across the country.  You also see them passed around on Facebook, with people commenting on how tragic childhood poverty is.  It is tragic but it is also the reality of the American public school system.  Demographics in this country have changed.  Teachers accepted this years ago.  It is time for parents, communities, and politicians to do the same. Childhood poverty is a reality across the United States, in every community!  It is often hidden within upper-middle class suburban communities.  They need to be supported and embraced by them.  We need to build a culture that understands that fairness is not about giving everyone the same education, but giving everyone the education that they need.  Everyone wants their child to have the best teachers and the best school.  Often middle class parents do not understand why money and resources are shifted to the schools with the neediest students and away from their own children, but a person with a clear understanding of the true meaning of equity realizes that this is the only way to more society forward in an unbiased manner.

Works Cited

Layton, L. (2015, January 16). Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty. Retrieved May 21, 2015, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/majority-of-us-public-school-students-are-in-poverty/2015/01/15/df7171d0-9ce9-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html

1 comment:

  1. o Detailed and thorough response: Thanks for the blog post. I have just entered a transition to teaching program and am working towards understanding what the teaching world looks like. It is astounding that the poverty rate in public schools is so high. What do you think are the major factors for this? You later spoke about how the parents, communities, and politicians need to wake up to the issue of poverty in the school system. What should the response be? Does taking more money from the middle class schools or students really lead to equity? Is there other things that could be done besides throwing money at the problem? I have just started to think about these things and just looking for some perspective.