April 28 rally at the U.S. Capitol asking Congress to raise minimum wage. Photo by Brooke Parker.
By Amanda Litvinov
Senate Republicans blocked the Minimum Wage Fairness Act from advancing earlier today, dashing hopes that Congress might lift millions of Americans out of poverty.
Hundreds of educators, parents, and other concerned citizens have shared their thoughts with EducationVotes about what a fair minimum wage could mean for students and their families. Here’s what one Wisconsin educator told us.
Take Action ›
Don’t miss out on the kind of education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. Click here ›
Lauren Mikol is a school psychologist at Lincoln Elementary in Madison, where 71% of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch (the state average is 41%), and many families are living in poverty.
She explained that when a child’s parent or parents are forced to work long hours or multiple jobs because of rock-bottom wages, it can impact every part of a child’s day.
“Kids may be on their own in the morning to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast, maybe even helping younger siblings get ready for school or daycare, because parents have already left for work very early,” she said.
“They often return to an empty house after school if the parents work extra shifts or a second job, and take care of their own dinners, which may mean just eating junk food to fill their tummies.”
Nationally, more than 21 million children have at least one parent who earns minimum wage.
Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour equals an annual salary of $15,080 for a full-time worker—far below the national poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. It’s also worth 31% less than the minimum wage in 1968. If it had kept pace with inflation, the current minimum wage would be $10.50 per hour.
With such a low minimum wage making it difficult for parents to piece together enough income to get by, Mikol sees that some students rarely spend time with their parents during the week, and even lose time with them on the weekends.
“Kids are kind of left to raise themselves and their siblings,” said Mikol.
“How can we possibly reduce the achievement gap between low income students and middle to high income students if it’s impossible to raise a family working one full-time job?” she asked.
“If we raise the minimum wage, parents will have more time and energy to engage with their kids in learning activities, making sure they are eating nutritious meals, getting enough physical activity and getting enough rest so that they are more ready to learn when they get to school.”
The fight to raise the minimum wage is already taking place in many states. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton fought for a wage hike, which he signed into law this month. Stay informed and support efforts in your state–your students are counting on you!