By Amanda Litvinov
Nearly a quarter of U.S. children are living in poverty, and educators are dismayed by the toll it’s taking on the students in their classrooms.
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“More than 95 percent of the students at my Title 1 elementary school are on free or reduced-price lunch programs. They eat all three meals at school, because there is little to no food at home,” said Mary Ragusa, a teacher at Lawrence Elementary in Lodi, California.
“Many wear dirty clothes because there is not enough money to do laundry more than once a week. Their families struggle to pay rent, utility bills, and buy necessities like prescription eyeglasses for their children.”
Students living in poverty face serious obstacles to learning, from hunger and insufficient sleep to anxiety over parental stress to less family engagement in education because parents must work long hours or multiple jobs.
More than 16 million children live below the official poverty line, which is defined as an income of $23,550 for a family of four. But it gets even worse: That family of four would need about twice that income to cover basic living expenses, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, and more than 40 percent of children live in families that don’t make that much.
Congress could help lift many of those families out of poverty by passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $10.10 per hour. Share your story like the educators below, then sign our petition urging Congress to do right by students and families by raising the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage would greatly improve the lives of roughly 700 out of the 900 students in this building. I teach at a Title I school where almost 80 percent of our students are on free or reduced-fee lunch and many read below grade level. Many go home to help care for siblings due to the long hours their parents work to provide for their basic necessities. No child should have to choose between doing their own homework or helping their younger brother or sister with theirs. I think policy makers forget there are real people who face real and devastating consequences when they fail to act in a compassionate and competent manner.
–J. F., middle school English teacher, Texas
Raising the minimum wage will help some children to get more time with mom and dad because they aren’t out working two or more jobs. I work in education and hear children’s stories of how they didn’t get to see mom or dad last night because they were working overtime for extra money to pay the bills. If their wages were fair, parents might have enough time to visit their children’s school and talk to their teacher, and get more involved in school activities. Lawmakers, please think of these children and their families when you vote on whether to raise the minimum wage.
–Gladys F., education support professional, Kentucky
Children suffer in many ways because of the plight of parents making minimum wage. The children take on too much responsibility at such a young age, the children hardly spend time with the parent or parents as the parents are working full time and more. The children, most of the time, are excluded from all of the extracurricular activities that most children enjoy such as sports and band. The children are out future but our future is being molded and shaped by despair, desperation, and very little belief that the world in which they live in is a good place to be.
–Samuel C., elementary school teacher, New Mexico
I have devoted 40 years of my life to teaching young children in public schools. I now am teaching children in poverty. I am extremely concerned with the lack of resources and challenging demands of teaching these precious children.
–Janice S., elementary school teacher, Florida
More than 95% of students at my Title 1 elementary school are on free or reduced-price lunch programs. They eat all three meals at school, because there is little to no food at home. Many wear dirty clothes because there is not enough money to do laundry more than once a week. Their families struggle to pay rent, utility bills, and buy necessities like prescription eyeglasses for their children. With such a low minimum wage allowed by the Feds, they are pushing so many of us into poverty, while the 1% get richer!! It’s obscene! It’s time to raise the minimum wage and ask those who are in the top 1% to donate 1% each year to childhood food and health projects!
–Mary R., elementary school teacher, California