PAGE Addresses Poverty in Schools

Jun 6, 2014

Summer usually means time off for students and teachers. But teachers across the state were in Dunwoody Friday to address the issue of poverty in schools.

It’s no surprise to most teachers that students in poverty start school behind. Claire Suggs is a policy analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. She said part of the problem is low-income children hear fewer words at home.

“Vocabulary is a learning tool, it helps kids process information and make sense of the world,” she said. “It helps them learn. And we know low-income kids don’t have those same tools.”Bridging that gap, she says, takes money. Suggs says Georgia isn’t spending enough to meet the needs of its students in poverty.

Georgia teachers gathered at the Rivinia Hotel in Dunwoody to learn how to address the issue of poverty in schools.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News

“Georgia is 40th in the nation in state revenue per student,” Suggs said. “We are at the bottom. This is not a number to be proud of. And we are seventh, we have the seventh-highest percentage of children in the free and reduced lunch program.”

Gov. Nathan Deal added an extra $315 million to the state’s education budget this year. Suggs said that will help, but the state’s poorest students need a lot more.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators hosted the event. Executive director Allene Magill said it wasn’t difficult to come up with a topic this year.

“We realize that the biggest issue facing public education today is the very big change of the face of poverty,” Magill said. “And the percentage of poverty that has actually increased, in say, the last 5-6 years.”

Magill says that means schools will deal with poverty for years to come

She says PAGE is informing local communities about the issue in hopes they’ll lobby state lawmakers for increased funding.

“Us presenting to all the elected officials at one time is not near as powerful as that local voter—being teachers and administrators and parents—presenting to those elected officials,” she said.  

The event also focused on strategies teachers can use to meet specific needs of students in poverty.