Focus on overcoming links between poverty and education

Ready or not, local kids will go back to school in mid-August. From kindergarten to senior year of high school, good schooling is fundamental to a child’s success as an adult. Of course, life circumstances also play a role in that success, especially when it comes to household income. When schools invest resources to help those less fortunate get ahead, it’s a win for the entire community.

Two of three students at Marshalltown Schools qualify for free and reduced lunch prices, which are based on social and economic status. That percentage is the second highest compared to other schools in the same athletic conference, just behind Des Moines Public Schools. Many kids in our community, and across the state, do not come from well-off homes.

Barriers of coming from a low-income background don’t stop at home. Poverty is cyclical and affects all parts of life. Students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to have health problems, cognitive readiness issues and social issues related to problems at home, according to a study from Louisiana State University. From the get-go, these students are faced with challenges that those from middle class or upper class backgrounds are not.

And why is this something all of us should care about even if it doesn’t affect us? Impoverished kids are more likely to grow up and then have impoverished kids. Poverty affects the entire economic vitality of a community.

Schools, and other community organizations focused on education, have a chance to make a positive impact on this issue. From small efforts to large efforts, initiatives addressing how poverty affects education helps pave a better future for many kids and our community at large.

The state recently changed the law on how schools handle free and reduced lunch. The law is meant to eliminate the stigma that qualified students face as much as possible. This is a great step in addressing social barriers less fortunate students face. Additionally, school district programs like summer lunches and school supply drives help give students basic necessities.

Beyond basic necessities, many other programs help provide for kids with these circumstances. Programs that focus on early childhood education, such as the ones facilitated by Mid-Iowa Community Action, help give kids a good foundation even before coming to school. On the other end of the spectrum, programs like GEAR UP Iowa and dual credit courses through Marshalltown Community College, help prepare students for college and careers.

As we send our kids back to school, we should be cognizant of this issue by looking to invest even more resources in creating opportunities for less fortunate kids. When our kids succeed, our community succeeds.