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Education, Poverty, and Maryland

Executive Director Beth Harbinson shares the connection between education and poverty through experiences she’s witnessed first hand. CSFB’s 97 percent high school graduation rate reinforces the fact that school choice helps to break the cycle and provides education for children that parents believe will be most effective.

In an article, America’s Poverty-Education Link, from The Huffington Post, contributor Howard Steven Friedman, a statistician and health economist for the United Nations and teacher at Columbia University writes:

“Poverty and education are inextricably linked where education is a primary means of social mobility, enabling those born into poverty to rise in society. Powerful evidence of the link includes the fact that 46 percent of Americans who grew up in low-income families but failed to earn college degrees stayed in the lowest income quintile, compared to 16 percent for those who earned a college degree.”

In addition, the Institute for Research on Poverty data, and our experience communicating with over 200 Baltimore families and 40 private schools, make us especially aware of how the pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable members of society and straining the social services system. Families and individuals with low incomes struggle during normal times, but this unprecedented modern crisis has intensified their hardship while also creating barriers to seeking help.

Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore serves families who have determined for one reason or another that the school that serves their community is not the best one for their child. They want to select something different. Often it is a school with smaller classes, a more structured OR unstructured learning environment.

It can be a school with academically-challenging classes – one mom shared with me that her son was bored in his school and this lack of interest in subject matter WAY beneath his level lead to discipline issues. “Now that he is elsewhere, there are no problems with his behavior. None.” Or it might be a school that has the flexibility and resources to accommodate a student struggling in a subject area.

I was one of those students. In my public school, math eluded me. I just could not figure out how it worked. At the private school my parents selected, they used a system of rods shaped 1 (a cube) to 10 (a 10-cube long rectangle) to teach math to struggling students. That’s when the lightbulb went ON – I got it. And although math never became my strong suit, I was not held back because the school figured out what and how I needed to learn.

So, why should we restrict access to education that works for each child?  The answer today is money. Maryland currently supports school choice through the BOOST scholarship program. Continued funding of this program that offers financial awards to low-income students K – 12 statewide is dependent on support from the legislature each year. Perhaps we should embrace the concept because it is clearly shown to be effective in long-term studies on graduation rates of the low-income population it benefits.

And finally, our experience with more than 40 private schools during this crisis makes me aware of how nimble, resourceful and responsive they have been during this crisis. On a walk with a friend who has children in public school, I learned that most of our students were “back at school” WEEKS before the public schools in our neighborhood were open again for learning.

Continued support of educational choice is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the financially prudent thing to do because of the link between an education that serves the student and their potential to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.

Take Action today to help break these connections and provide better educational options for children struggling in their current school.

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