For the first time in recent history, a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools come from low income families. The latest data collected from the states by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), evidence that 51 percent of the students across the nation’s public schools were low income in 2013.
The pattern was spread across the nation. Half or more of the public schoolchildren in 21 states were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, a benefit available only to families living in poverty or near-poverty in 2013.1 In 19 other states, low income students constituted between 40 percent and 49 percent of the states’ public school enrollment. In other words, very high proportions of low income students were evident in four-fifths of the 50 states in 2013 (See Appendix 1).
This defining moment in enrollment in public education in the United States comes as a consequence of a steadily growing trend that has persisted over several decades. In 1989, less than 32 percent of the nation’s public school students were low-income. By 2000, the national rate as compiled and calculated by NCES had increased to over 38 percent. By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent. NCES data shows that in 2012 the rate of low income students was barely below one-half –49.6 percent. In 2013, the rate crossed the threshold of one half so that in 2013 low income students became a new majority in the nation’s public schools.
Source: Southern Education Foundation