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Majority of public school students living in poverty, study shows

For the first time in history, more than half of public school students in the United States live in low-income households, according to a new report from the Southern Education Foundation.

The foundation analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics and found that nationwide, 51 percent of public school students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2013.

The percentage of students from low-income households has been on a steady increase since 1989, when it was at 32 percent. In 2006, 42 percent came from low-income households, and it climbed to 48 percent in 2011.

In 21 states, a majority of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, with Mississippi leading the way, where 71 percent of students are eligible. New Hampshire came in the lowest (27 percent), while in Illinois, it’s a 50/50 split.

From the report:

“No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness… Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

h/t: The Guardian