Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hall of Shame: New Mexico Trails Mississippi Again

For the first time (2013) a majority (51%) of school children attending public schools across the country come from low-income families, according to a study released by the Southern Education Foundation a couple of weeks ago, using data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  In Mississippi 71% of public school children are low-income; New Mexico is second, only 3 points behind, at 68%.  New Hampshire is last, at 27%.

How did they define low-income?  This study classified students as being low-income if they are eligible for free lunch or reduced-price lunches at school, based on family income.  Students are eligible for free meals if they live in households where the income is no more than 135% of the poverty threshold.  They are eligible for reduced-price lunches if household income is no larger than 185%.  In 2013, for example, a student in a single parent household with an income of $19,969 was eligible for a free lunch, and for a reduced-price lunch in a public school at an income level of $27,991.  

Perhaps more interesting than the rankings themselves is the national trend.  In 1989 only 32% of the nation's public school children were from low-income families.  It climbed six points during the Clinton years to 38% in 2000, rose four points to 42% six Bush years later in 2006, glided up to 48% (in 2011) during the first term of Obama, and sits at 51% as of 2013.  Perfectly bipartisan race to the bottom.

New Mexico has also drifted down.  In 2000, compared to national school children low-income levels of 38%,  New Mexico, at 56%, ranked third in this category, behind Louisiana and Mississippi.  By 2006, compared to a national level of 42%, New Mexico had dropped six points, to 62%, still third in the nation, and then seven years later, in 2013, compared to a national average of 51%, New Mexico had dropped to 68%, now second only to Mississippi.

Bottom line:  as national income has flowed increasingly toward the richest 1%, the national low-income school population has grown in 25 years from 32% of the total to 51% of the total.  New Mexico has continued to trail the rest of the country with the proportion of low-income students growing from 56% in 2000 to 68% in 2013.  The gap has not narrowed.  While one out of two students nationwide is classified as coming from a low-income family, in New Mexico the corresponding number is two out of three.

No comments: