Students and families struggle on after Senate Republicans block minimum wage boost


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.

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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.

Can't survie on 7.25She 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!

Reader Comments

  1. Yes, I totally agree the Minimum Wage should go up to $10.50 per hr. WE middle & low class citizens are haveing it hard to live.

    Ms. Judy M. Hudson

  2. Dear Mary:

    You’re dreaming. We are NOT created equal. If you would read the writing of the founders, what they meant was that all people have equal opportunity, but they have the personal responsibility to make the most of what talents they have, and that people don’t all have the same talents. I am not equal to Michael Jordan, Yo Yo Ma, or Bill Gates. I was not created with good looks equal to Ben Affleck. When I left high school I was making minimum wage as a plumber, but after a year I realized I wanted more so I sacrificed and went to college, got a good education which allowed me to make good money. I studied in my spare time and learned to invest to provide a better life. Why the heck should I want to give up some of my hard-earned income for people who won’t make an effort? Why should I give a damn about an single woman trying to raise kids are her own? My wife and I understood that if you’re going to have kids you need to get married and stay married.

    There is a sickness in this country and you have it. It’s called greed. You think that you deserve much more money just because it’s hard to live on minimum wage, it’s unfair others have more, it’s unfair…. blah, blah, blah. You also suffer from a low understanding of economics, something which you share with most liberals. The salary someone is paid is tied to what benefit they bring to a company. In many businesses, if minimum wage is raised, they will be forced to cut hours, reduce the workforce, or raise prices. Where will that leave you? With more inflation? Yes. Higher unemployment likely, too. I’ve been there – I ran a small business for a time out of college and remember well the frustration when the minimum wage was raised in ’77 (or somewhere then).

    If everyone was equal, regardless of their level of education (your words), what incentive would there be for anyone to study science, mathematics, engineering, medicine, law, or any other worthy topic? If I can be paid the same amount for working at Walmart, why go to the trouble of all that education? Homework, study? That must be for losers.

    There have been many times in the past 30 years where I have despised what the NEA stands for, and on the topic of minimum wage, it’s one of them. The overpaid, undercooked employees of the NEA perpetuate this class envy and need to wake up and stop it.

  3. Dear Representatives in Congress,

    I think people are being too modest in discussing how poor our average middle class American families have become……There are so many aspects to consider before congress decides to increase our minimum wage to a mere $10.50 per hour. We need to double the minimum wage to $14.50 an hour. A single mother with children needs to provide shelter food and health care coverage for her family without making her children stay home alone because she needs a second job to make ends meet. Our society has put our children’s health and well being at a high risk of incidence because they need to compensate.Thank God the young are too naeve to their vulnerabilites in this world. What would the children in our scciety think of a country that retains for them their freedom, yet takes it away if they can not do anything with it. Domestic relations support does not always cut it.There are many dads that simply can’t pay enough in support because they are working minimum wage $8.00 an hour jobs. By the time they take into account his rent, health insurance, gas, utility bills and food there is not enough to come out of his check to support his family.Women have evolved more than that to still have to depend an a spouse.Women today need to be independent snough to be able to support their children without the children having to worry that mommy still needs more money to feed us or will we still have a home next week. I myself am a 57 year old women….a two time cancer survivor which does not feel very confident in the job market ….and does not have a large enough savings to care for myself if something were to happen to my husband. Should I not be able to have a descent quality of life if I were lucky enough to land a job. Did our country forget WE ARE ALL CREATED EQUAL…..Regardless of anyones level of education. Maybe more fortunate people with the highest paying jobs could consider giving the less fortunate a break through taking a price cut in their pays. Don’t you think our world would get to be a better place one step at a time. United WE Stand. There is no bigger statement of love for one another than that.

    Help Us Help ourselves sincerely,
    Mary Boccadoro Citizen of the USA

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