The United States is currently experiencing a challenge unlike anything we have confronted before. For the first time in over four decades, our national education sector is facing the reality that most of America’s children are growing up in low-income homes.
At the same time, we are doing a poorer job of preparing low-income children for today’s workforce realities than ever before. Currently, less than 50 percent of children from low-income homes earn a high school diploma on time and fewer than 20 percent complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating from high school. Yet more employers across the United States are seeking to hire workers with higher levels of education than they ever have in the past.
Research indicates that children growing up in more affluent homes are not facing the same challenges. In international comparisons, these students are achieving at levels that are among the highest in the industrialized world. Unfortunately, this is small conciliation considering that less than half of our future workforce will be raised in affluent homes.
In 2011, there were 32.4 million low-income children ages 0-18, up from 28.5 million just five short years earlier. The growth in low-income children is drastically outpacing the growth in high-quality schools to serve them and prepare them for the future. Without a major change in public education, more and more low-income children will be shut out of the American Dream.
Today, the global competitiveness of our nation is being driven by the how well we educate children who grow up in poverty. This is not an issue of serving the “marginalized” anymore – it is the defining issue that will decide the future prosperity of our nation.