Partnership helps educate homeless students

News Tribune editorial

The Jefferson City Public School and Salvation Army have joined forces in the uphill battle to educate and assist homeless students.

Reports of increasing poverty in America and growing needs in Central Missouri persist.

The Associated Press reported in a story published in Thursday’s edition that America’s poorest poor reached a record high, 1 in 15 people. The poorest poor — people at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level — now includes 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 of our nation’s population.

One local manifestation is a dramatic rise in the number students who qualify for free or reduced lunches in the public schools.

Educators learned in October more than 50 percent of local public school students now qualify for the program, up from about 20 percent two decades ago.

Census data for Missouri found the median income declined from $53,330 in 2000 to $44,301 in 2010, according to Amy Blouin, director of the Missouri Budget Project, who added poverty has increased from 9.4 percent to 15.2 percent in the past decade.

In the face of growing needs, the local public schools and the Salvation Army have formed a partnership to coordinate and maximize resources for needy students.

A question arises. Should the schools, a venue for education, also be a provider of social services?

Proponents say yes, contending it is difficult — if not impossible — to educate a child who is hungry, cold and damp, or preoccupied with the consequences of living in poverty.

Regardless of the larger philosophical question, the public schools employ social workers, and a sensible initiative is to maximize the resources.

Those resources may be material — providing students with clothing, hygiene products or alarm clocks — and informational — advising parents of start times, available programs and pertinent school policies.

The Salvation Army’s regional coordinator, Maj. Kendall Mathews, said: “We’re getting back to basics, the necessities of life.”

The local partnership is designed to ease the daily burden of poverty and provide homeless students an opportunity to learn.


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