Why a child poverty target is good education policy
While both the House and Senate continue work on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the primary federal education legislation), Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced a bill that would have a major positive impact on children’s education, but it falls outside the jurisdiction of the education committees and does nothing to amend ESEA.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2015 (H.R. 2408), introduced on May 19, 2015, would establish a national goal of cutting child poverty in half in ten years and eliminating it in 20. To help achieve these goals, it would also authorize an interagency working group to develop a plan to meet these targets and request a study from the National Academy of Sciences to assist in developing a plan to reduce child poverty.
This legislation is important for children’s education because of the well-researched impact of poverty on children’s academic achievement, likelihood to graduate from high school, and pursue higher education. Children living in or near poverty experience toxic stress (which continues to affect children well beyond their early years), instability, community violence, and other environmental hazards like lack of heat in their homes. What does this all mean for children’s education? Higher rates of absenteeism; inability to concentrate on schoolwork; increased likelihood of depression; reduced motivation, determination, cognition, and memory; diminished social skills; and ultimately lower academic achievement and a higher risk of not finishing high school.