[lg policy] Poverty rise brings another test for Texas public schools

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 3 17:42:23 UTC 2010

*Poverty rise brings another test for Texas public

This article is disturbing on multiple levels. I'm posting the accompanied
image from the original article so that the way our media constructs our
children is transparent.

Rather than ignoring the linguistic wealth that bilingual learners who this
article refers to as "disadvantaged" and "at-risk" perhaps Texas can lead
the nation in constructing learning environments that invest in bilingualism
and biliteracy and hold these competencies as valuable. Who out there would
disagree that global leaders are those who speak more than one language and
are are equipped to communicate effectively across different contexts and

If emerging bilingual students were seen in this light, perhaps statements
like "the cost of educating at-risk students" made here by Rep. Eissler
would be replaced by "investing in building upon and strengthening the
competencies that our growing student body enter school with."

What's also missing on the list of needs are well prepared teachers. Ideally
those who value the assets (like a second language) that growing numbers of
students in Texas and nationally enter school with. Perhaps those who are
bilingual, bicultural, and who themselves experience the benefits that these
assets provide. These competencies provide an edge that seems pretty obvious
to many middle class, monolingual families who spend thousands to send their
children abroad to learn.

Fear perpetuates poor decision making and fragments communities. Let's hope
the outcomes of the upcoming study will provide these kinds of arguments,


San Antonio Express-News reporter Gary Scharrer contributed to this report.
January 2, 2010

Almost six out of 10 Texas public schoolchildren hail from low-income
families, marking a troubling spike in poverty over the last decade, a new
state report finds.


Poverty rise brings another test for Texas public schools

Almost six out of 10 Texas public schoolchildren hail from poor families, a
new state report shows, posing growing challenges in classrooms.

The increase coincides with a significant jump in the number of Hispanic
students, while fewer Anglo students were enrolled last year than 10 years
ago, according to the study by the Texas Education Agency. Schools also are
educating many more children whose primary language is not English.

The rapidly changing makeup of the Texas public school classroom poses
growing challenges for the state. Impoverished and disadvantaged children
are more likely to falter academically and drop out, and educating
struggling students can be costly.

“Economically disadvantaged students have needs,” said Sarah Winkler, the
president of the Texas Association of School Boards and an Alief school
board trustee. “The cost of education is going to go up. Every student has
to meet the same standards, and some of those students have never seen a
book before.”

To help at-risk students, Winkler said, school districts should focus their
resources on preschool programs to try to close the learning gap early, on
parent education, on extra tutoring and on smaller class sizes, among other

The state's school funding system is set up to pay districts more for their
impoverished students, but some believe the extra dollars are not enough.

This year, the price tag is $2.8 billion, according to the TEA. Districts
also get additional federal funds.

A special legislative committee is supposed to study school funding before
state lawmakers reconvene in 2011, and Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the
House Public Education Committee, said he expects discussion on the cost of
educating at-risk students.

“You have more and more kids that are less prepared to do well in school,”
said Eissler, R-The Woodlands. “Where the expense comes in, you need
teachers that have more qualifications. Maybe we need more and better
professional development for our teachers.”

Texas has seen one of the biggest enrollment booms in the nation, growing 20
percent over the decade to 4.7 million students last school year, according
to the TEA report. Enrollment in all U.S. public schools increased 8.1

“I guess that's because our economy has held up better than other parts of
the country, and people are migrating here,” Winkler said. “That's a plus.”

The vast majority of the new students in Texas come from low-income
families. Last year, poor children made up nearly 57 percent of the state's
enrollment, up from 48 percent in the 1998-99 academic year. Many
Houston-area school districts serve even larger percentages of impoverished

The report counted children as poor if they qualified for free- or
reduced-priced school lunches. A family of four, for example, would meet the
criteria with an annual income of $40,793.

Steve Murdock, the former state demographer and previous director of the U.S
Census Bureau, has projected that the average household income in Texas will
drop in coming decades, pouring even more disadvantaged students into the

“It's going to require a greater effort on the part of the state to make
those children competitive,” said Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice

The racial and ethnic mix of the state's public schools also has changed
dramatically in 10 years. Enrollment increased except for Anglos and blacks.
The number of Hispanic students surpassed Anglos for the first time in the
2001-02 school year.

Last year, Hispanics made up nearly 48 percent of the enrollment, followed
by whites (34 percent), blacks (14 percent) and Asians (4 percent). Nearly
17 percent of students had limited English-speaking skills.

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