Study: Most public school students in Georgia are poor

school-povertyThe South may rise again, but it likely won’t be because of increasing levels of income or educational quality.

A new study concludes the South is the home of poor public school students.

The Washington Post lead pretty much sums it up: “A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country.”

To be considered poor, a student must be eligible for free or reduced lunches. Eligibility varies according to household size, but a family of four would have to have an annual household income below $43,000 for a child to be eligible for a reduced lunch, $30,000 for a free lunch.

Mississippi has the greatest percentage of poor students (71 percent), according to the study by the Southern Education Foundation. Georgia is ranked 6th (57 percent). Thirteen of the 17 states that have majority poor students are from the South.

Maryland and Virginia are the only Southern states that do not have majority poor student populations, maybe because of those states’ large population of federal workers.

For the first time ever, students from Western states (California, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico) are majority poor, according to the study.

Nationally, the population of poor students has grown 5.7 million since 2001. As a result, the national rate of low income students attending public schools moved from 38 percent of all students in 2001 to 48 percent in 2011, the study says.

Educational spending has increased too, 14 percent from 2001 to 2011. Southern states spend about $9,200 per student. Public schools in the Northeast spend almost twice that, $16,000 per student.

Low income students are more likely than students from wealthier families to have lower tests scores, fall behind in school, dropout, and fail to acquire a college degree, the study says.

The study’s writers don’t come out and say it, but someone at Gawker suggests the solution is to outlaw private schools.

Is the assumption that rich kids will help make the poor kids smarter? Though public school systems could likely boast higher average standardized test scores, I don’t think it would be because of an improvement in the worst performers.

Maybe lumping all students together impedes the education of richer students? Is that fair?

It’s a complex problem and there may not be a solution, though I am sure some educators will suggest the ever-popular “throw money at it.”

What do you suggest?

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113 comments Add your comment


October 18th, 2013
8:32 am

According to an AJC article there are 133,262 illegal immigrants in Georgia’s school system costing the state 2.4 billions a year. I bet 100% are getting free lunches. The answer seems simple to me..


October 18th, 2013
8:33 am

The real question is what # defined a “poor” student in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000. Then, did that # rise in conjunction with cost of living, etc. My bet is we are now considering a child to be “poor” who would not have been considered poor (even accounting for inflation, etc) 20+ years ago.

Darryl Singleton

October 18th, 2013
8:33 am

Well I’ll be!!!!!! I would have never guessed that. Thanks Washington Post for this groundbreaking information.


October 18th, 2013
8:46 am

Middle class and Upper class parents are removing their children from public schools – not because their fellow classmates may be poor, but because their fellow classmates may be disruptive, have no interest in learning, and, in fact, be threatening or attempting to teach the behaviors of an alternative culture. Public education can only be saved by removing these students (perhaps an alternate school or alternate classes). TRACKING – attacked in the 60’s as discriminatory – provides an intense education to the motivated (poor or not) at the level for which they are prepared. Consideration of reintroduction of this method would, in my opinion, be preferable to the current Charter School approach. This may improve the motivation of some from poor families and provide training in areas unavailable in the standard academic curriculum for those who detest history, mathematics, foreign languages, science, etc. (e.g., auto shop, wood working, home economics, etc.).


October 18th, 2013
8:47 am

Nothing new here. I would be curious to know the ratio of “undocumented” alien students in the poorest states relative to the richer states. More alarming to me is the suggestion that outlawing private schools is somehow seen as a solution to the problem. Socialism and Marxism is right out in the open these days. It is sad to me that a large segment of the population seems to believe that government is the only answer when government has clearly ruined everything that it has touched in the past 60+ years.


October 18th, 2013
8:48 am

No, it won’t work. The schools in the DC area spend almost $14,000 per student……As much as most private high schools in the south….and it’s not working. It’s the breakdown of the American family, generational poverty. You could spend 50,000 per student in DC and see little improvement. It’s a two parent home, who happen to have an education, holding children accountable. Without that, you have failure. Dr. Ben Carson’s are one in a million.

some sense

October 18th, 2013
8:49 am

Public school educators are like a bunch of alcoholics, just taking it one day at a time, throwing another brick on the pile and hopin’ it stays up there. Discipline among lower income students is abysmal. Their teachers and coaches often are the only people in their lives who provide structure. Probably the best solution to the problems referenced here is to stop mainstreaming all students; this practice holds back the smart ones and confuses the ones who struggle. Nothing wrong w/ taking a more basic approach w/ slow learners. Lots of success stories among those who are committed to serving this sector.


October 18th, 2013
8:52 am

This is what happens when you move all the jobs overseas. Good luck with that.


October 18th, 2013
8:55 am

“…South may rise again, but it likely won’t because of…educational quality.”

Just because a school is poor does not mean a school offers a low quality of instruction.

Just because a region features a larger portion of lower income students in public schools does not mean that a large number of students are not well educated in great private schools.

The media focuses on SAT scores, a test that GA students take in greater numbers than almost any other state. Dig deeper (National Center for Ed. Statistics) and most people will be surprised to find that GA students rank very well by race/state.

Not soon enough

October 18th, 2013
9:00 am

Given our political impasse and the likely consequences to this nation and the world from our debt-fueled, bankster-run economy, I am personally routing for the asteroid.


October 18th, 2013
9:02 am

It’s simple. There are two major problems:

(1) Discipline
(2) Overwhelming influence of illegal alien adults, and their children.

Far too many resources are dedicated to both. But political correctness impedes the solution.

Hidden agenda

October 18th, 2013
9:06 am

Just remember, some of the first things Hitler and the Nazis did to ensure their control over society and their ability to eliminate their opposition and the “undesireables” were:

1. Banning of all gun ownership
2. Banning of all private and homeschooling (the homeschooling ban continues to this day in Germany)
3. Imposition of nationalized healthcare (where tens of thousands ‘disappeared’ during their hospitalization)

Private schools are not the problem. Parents and the government run monopoly bureaucratic system are the problem. Everyone wants to socialize the cost of their children but nobody wants to take any responsibility. That goes for the entire middle class as well as the poor. That goes for most of the parents reading this too.


October 18th, 2013
9:08 am

Are southern states not spending much on public schools because only poor kids go to public schools,
or are only poor kids going to public schools because states don’t spend much on public schools?


October 18th, 2013
9:11 am

Simple – A states poor educational system = Lower income state. Not hard to understand the numbers. Folk’s until we get someone in the Gold Dome that is willing to put education first and make parents accountable the numbers will never change.


October 18th, 2013
9:11 am

Actually JB – speaking from experience – the DC area (specifically Montgomery County) has the best public schools in the country. I would put many of them up against the best private schools in Atlanta. And, also – speaking from experience – private schools are corrupted by the need for tuition paying parents and may accept, and pass along, disruptive and poor learners, in order to keep wealthy parents happy. This is where standards and government rules (JEFF) have played an important role and kept us informed (as in this article) regarding the U.S. population’s educational accomplishments and deficiencies.

Devil's Advocate

October 18th, 2013
9:13 am

Before people come here poo pooing “the poor” let me ask why there is often such a negative perception of impoverished people? I’m a strong believer in the free market system and capitalism. I’m also a strong believer in logic and math that supports telling the story of financial matters.

As for the distribution of wealth in a society, if everyone were middle class wouldn’t that mean the top would have to send wealth to the poor to balance things out? It seems that people don’t want that so isn’t the alternative that there will be a small percentage of people with massive wealth, a larger percentage of people with moderate wealth, and a substantial number of people with low wealth? Isn’t this what we signed up for with our economy and way of life in America?

I ask these questions because we as individuals cannot continue to sing the praises of things while ignoring the negatives. Everything comes at a cost in life. The sooner individuals accept the realities of the world, the sooner we can move on to making this a better place.

Unfortunately, most of the same people who push the virtues of attaining wealth ignore that uncapped earning potential means someone else isn’t earning much at all. There is only a finite amount of money out there despite our government’s effort to keep printing more money to supplement what we borrow from other nations. Further, those of climb the highest tend exponentially gain more wealth which is why the top is so small and the bottom is so large. But that’s what we want right? We all want the opportunity to make as much as we can earn which means someone else won’t be able to earn that value from the greater pie.

There are only so many successful businesses that can exist at one time relative to the size of the population. If too many desirable businesses exist at once they would have to lower prices to compete for patrons and in turn wouldn’t make profit and so you wouldn’t have wealthy owners. At varying points in a market’s life cycle top earners emerge while those who “failed” slip down the scale.

Now, I’d suggest that a society is only as good as its weakest components. If I were in a financially advantageous position it would seem to me that rather than pooping on those beneath me I would do something to drive them to a positive life situation (not welfare) rather than casting them off to potentially become a menace to society.

So instead of complaining about people all the time (because human nature means we’ll always have something to complain about) how do us successful people come up with ideas to pull more people out of the doldrums of society to make future generations desire a better life and work towards positive? And yes, it does require “pulling” because people without motivation are not going to magically decide to be motivated without a life changing event of some sort.

Do we sit back and wait for random events to occur that jump start a few people’s lives or do we get active and do something to create life changing events to give these people a new perspective, if not just for their children?


October 18th, 2013
9:26 am

Illegals aren’t the issue. Sounds like some of you are looking for a scape goat rather than the real problems. Always a race game with some of you. Poor Education system = Lower income folk’s.


October 18th, 2013
9:27 am

The only thing to cure this ailment is a huge emphasis on BIRTH CONTROL. With middle and high school unmarried, uneducated, uncultured girls producing hugh amounts of children who will grow up as weeds, what can you expect? The Republicans are “shooting themselves in the foot” with all their efforts to curb birth control. They should be be supporting and singing the praises of Planned Parenthood and giving out free birth control in all forms and information. It is not an honor but a disgrace to produce an illegitimate child or a child that you cannot afford to support.

Charles Hannum

October 18th, 2013
9:34 am

Could the newly discovered high percentage of low income students in Georgia public schools be “une impression fausse?” Perhaps the absolute number is about the same as before. The difference is that more and more high income kids attend private schools, these days. So, it might well be the ratio that changes instead of the absolute numbers.


October 18th, 2013
9:41 am

Well the Good Ole Boy’s Going thinking and Plan has been to Keep them DUMB and on the FARM!


October 18th, 2013
9:45 am

T-Man October 18th, 2013 9:26 am “Illegals aren’t the issue. Sounds like some of you are looking for a scape goat rather than the real problems. Always a race game with some of you. ”

Actually, they are a large component of the problem. ESOL students cost twice as much as regular students to educate in the public school system. Illegals also have, on average, less education, fewer skills and lower incomes than the general population, and their presence can and does swamp many school systems.

East Cobb Parent

October 18th, 2013
9:46 am

Actually the state of Georgia does allocate additional funds for schools in Low Income areas in the form of Title 1 Schools. The problem is not poverty, teachers or funding. The problem is a lack of involvement by parents. Many of the Title 1 schools offer free tutoring before and after school; however, the participation rate at some locations is minimal. Also, 99% of the children of undocumented foreigners living in this country are US Citizens and are just as entitled to public schooling as every other child in this country. If your child fails or succeeds in life it is your responsibility and not because of “Illegals”, the teacher or poor government funding.


October 18th, 2013
9:47 am

You must understand Georgia Political Leaders HATE EDUCATION. They see it as waste of time and Ruining America and South. All the kids all mixed UP together is NOT gOOD!

They Must be SEPARATED by Color…They don’t ALL Learn the same WAY!

Also the future plan is school parent vouchers. Give mom and dad a check if you will and tell them to find their own school of their CHOICE. This means blurring the line of Church and State with State Education Dollars going to the MEGACHURCH of Pastor BOB. issues of prayer in school. No more public schools as we know it. but business, corporate and religious run schools of education in Georgia.



October 18th, 2013
9:49 am

If the wealthy want to pay for their kids to go to private schools that’s fine by me as long as they still pay their share of school taxes (usually through property taxes). This helps the revenue numbers for the public schools while also keeping the class sizes down. Additionally, NO ILLEGAL immigrants should be allowed to attend, let alone get free lunches!


October 18th, 2013
9:49 am

USC-69 October 18th, 2013 9:11 am ” Actually JB – speaking from experience – the DC area (specifically Montgomery County) has the best public schools in the country.”

Quite sure the earlier poster was writing about the public schools of Washington DC proper which do spend extravagantly on their students with no discernible positive effect on the vast majority. So, naturally, the public education establishment and race mongers want to eschew vouchers which might improve student outcomes.


October 18th, 2013
9:53 am

I noticed the comments about Virginia and Maryland… Now why is it that people always look at the federal government for being WRONG for paying people decently and there is not out cry over private industry UNDERpaying people?


October 18th, 2013
9:54 am

Not much new info here. I already knew that the South have more poor than the rest of the country. Stands to reason that the schools would reflect that. The only interesting tidbit is the fact that the national average percentage has increased by so much from 2001 to 2011. The reason for the increase can be any number of things and I’m sure that we’ll have lots of guesses here in these comments. My guess is income inequality, corpratization of farming, weakend unions, a lower bar for what’s considered poor, inflation and of course Obama/Tea Party anarchists coalition to destroy us all.

Don't Tread

October 18th, 2013
9:58 am

“Is the assumption that rich kids will help make the poor kids smarter?”

No, it’s more of an intent to give government more power and limit freedom of choice in schools today (and all the rest of individual freedoms later), and to create absolute government dependency and control. It has nothing to do with helping anyone but themselves.

This is not the America my father and grandfathers fought for – they risked their lives serving our country and fought AGAINST people who would take our freedoms away.


October 18th, 2013
10:09 am

Just because a child gets free lunches at school does not mean the family is poor. Just like people can beat the system with food stamps, section 8 and the like, do you not think it possible to do the same with free meals for the kids? I laughed when I read Lydiadad’s statement about the illegal immigrant and their children. I have a friend who is not legal and she has 4 children, all US citizens. These are probably some of the smartest kids I have ever ran into and I have grandchildren myself. Her 4 and 5 year old sons are computer geeks, can upload to Youtube and the like, know how to hook your equipment up including cameras, etc. and her 11 and 9 year old girls win all kinds of awards in school leading their classes in achievements for excellence. The father and mother both work and only want to contribute to being here. I am so proud of my “grandfriends.”


October 18th, 2013
10:14 am

The prospect of legions of poor, illiterate people coming of age does not bode well for Georgia and the United States. The primary beneficiary, of course, will be the Democrat Party.


October 18th, 2013
10:17 am

To Lexi3: You should know the Hispanic family I know and then you could eat your words about their being undereducated. Their mother taught kindergarten when she was in Mexico and their father is a very hard worker, working to help support his family. You need to find a family such as this and educate YOURSELF.


October 18th, 2013
10:18 am

Poor students do perform better when attending mixed schools, while better-off students maintain their academic performance. Several good and affordable books lay out proof, including “The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy” and “Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh”. Quality reform becomes more tricky in Georgia where we start with a high poverty rate and so many better-off students go to private schools, but this reform (socioeconomic mixing) would be implemented on a district-by-district basis as practical. For example, Cobb County could do it.


October 18th, 2013
10:27 am

Georgia Schools have problems because……we have a lot of single MOMS w/ 4 or more kids, no Dad in the home, NO VALUES to learn from. Grandmothers are NOW 28YRS., GREATGRAND MOTHERS IN THERE 40. We have a lot of uneducated mothers & dads today. Teachers have a hard time trying to teach these kids when they are at school, a lot of these problems start at home. No respect at home at school in streets, never seen so much disrespect from kids in all my days. If you whoop your kids the police can lock you up, or if pop them one good time you can be locked up. I tell you the government started a whole lot of mess, now it has back fired. The whole school systems is out dated.


October 18th, 2013
10:29 am

So, how many of these students also have the latest iPhones or newest game system?


October 18th, 2013
10:36 am

Free vasectomies – truthfully, we need to find practical ways to reduce babies born into poverty.


October 18th, 2013
10:36 am

Families need to be responsible for instilling educational values. My son did not attend one of the best school districts in the metro Atlanta area, in fact they had very few AP or honors courses, but he attended a top notch university on full scholarship. We took advantage of everything the school had to offer, including extracurricular activities like science club and Beta Club. I’m a first generation college student and he is second generation. It is family values and choice that determine whether or not we are well educated. My parents placed a high value on education and/or learning a trade. I received the Pell grant and made my way through college, while my brother actually went to a technical college. Yes, the road was filled with lots of hard sacrifices, but I think our decisions have a lot to do with our individual economic situations. We need to take responsibility for our individual situations. And yes, federal government programs helped me through the tough times in my life. I received WIC and also the Pell Grant to attend college. These government programs helped me through tough times, but now I’m able to give back! I know the value of government programs because they helped me, but I also don’t think they should be a way of life for people. At our national parks, they tell you not to feed the animals, because then they stop foraging for food and become dependent on others. What makes people so different???

Think through the stats

October 18th, 2013
10:41 am

What a crock. Low income students are more likely to drop out, have lower test scores, etc… Yet California has some of the best schools in the country leading into one of the best college systems in the country. Yet they are only 3% behind Georgia. Perhaps it isn’t “poor” that’s our problem.

Also to Lucio – “Poor students do perform better when attending mixed schools, while better-off students maintain their academic performance.” I don’t want my smart kid maintaining. I want my smart kid excelling. That’s why your supposed fixes don’t work. I’m not going to sit around while my smart kid teaches the low-performing kid.


October 18th, 2013
10:45 am

Poor students make great democrats who control the poor school disticts. Endless cycle but the democrats need a dumbed down electorate to keep them in power..


October 18th, 2013
10:53 am

“…including “The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy” and “Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh”.”

Wake County (Raleigh) has forced busing that takes kids from the suburbs and places them in inner-city schools. Residents were sick of this and recently threw out board members who adopted this policy.

October 18th, 2013
10:55 am

The data isn’t accurate. Many people lie on the lunch application.

Why Not?

October 18th, 2013
10:58 am


Who can fault anyone who could afford to send their kids to private school?

I sometimes don’t uderstand these types of studies (they only seem to point out the major advantages of the rich folks).

We need to accept that we have folks in our society that were born with silver spoons and it is what it is. The policy of everyone should have the same chances is crazy – life does not work that why.

Unless we become a nation of CLONES (i.e. Stepford Wives)….there will always be folks that are smarter, wealthier, and better looking that someone else.

That’s life – IT IS WHAT IT IS.

Give Thanks to Private School Families

October 18th, 2013
10:59 am

Thank you to families that send their kids to private schools…their kids will thrive as adults and pay more taxes so the poor buy electronics while living on entitlements…Section 8 housing, EBT, SNAP, social security, medicare, medicaid, future single-payer healthcare, etc.

Everybody’s happy and we’ll all avoid speaking Chinese one day.

James Jordan

October 18th, 2013
11:00 am

Well hell’s bells, just take the rest of my money and give it to them. Most of these kids are poor because their momma’s, (most don’t have daddy’s) are slaves to the welfare system. Uneducated free-loaders created by the federal government and manipulated for votes…!

Kinda shameful ain’t it ???

Why Not?

October 18th, 2013
11:04 am


There are a lot of people who have pulled themseleves out of the slums and trailer parks – who have earned there success.

Why not take advantage of the “best” things life has to offer.

Oh yeah – I am going to send my kids to the best schools (because I know what’s its like to go to a school where you always have to worry about drugs and gangs).

Yeah I am going to wear the finest clothes and drink the best champange….

I don’t need Obama Care I can afford to pay my own health cost… yeah I am blessed and I don’t feel a bit guilty.

I got it the hard way – know you go out and get yours…..

Like I stated earlier —–IT IS WHAT IT IS.

WHY NOT?????????????????

Why Not?

October 18th, 2013
11:25 am

You will notice my grammer and spelling errors in my previous posts. I do apologize.

You see I did not have the education that I can afford to provide for my kids. But to be honest it’s not so much the money but it’s the parents.

Regardless of the income level – parents need to get involved in their kids education.

If the school is not teaching them – then you take the time to teach them – change schools – bottom line is you find a way to give your kids things that you did not have.

Tha’ts the solution – but some of us need to stop looking at what someone else have or don’t have. Don’t hate….find a way to get your own success (whatever you define it to be).

Why not???


October 18th, 2013
11:38 am

Slavery was brought about by businesses trying to get the most amount of work for the least amount of cost. What are businesses doing today, wanting the most amount of work for the least amount of cost. Is it any wonder more and more people are becoming poor?


October 18th, 2013
11:58 am

No man is an island. We can live in a country that treats it’s poor like trash or we can live in a country that treats it’s poor like humans and is willing to accept the fact that a percentage will game the system and accept it to help the ones who are willing to help themselves.


October 18th, 2013
11:58 am

Since when did social security become an entitlement when you pay in it all your working life? Just wondering…


October 18th, 2013
12:12 pm

Exactly, MTer. I always hear SS being tossed around as an entitlement, which it’s not. I like it though because it identifies uninformed folks I’d rather not waste my time trying to educate.


October 18th, 2013
12:17 pm

What I don’t understand is why these students are getting free lunches, but their parents are picking them up in brand new BMW’s, Cadillacs and Benz’s. Something is wrong here in Gwinnett!