A New Majority: Low-Income Students in the South’s Public Schools

2007 – The report details how low-income children constitute a majority of the students in the public schools of the South, and that the South is the only region in the nation where low-income students are 50 percent or more of public school enrollment.

SEF’s report finds that in 2006, low-income students were 54 percent of the 15-state South’s public school enrollment, while the percentage in the rest of the nation stood at 41 percent. The South’s percentage of low-income students – defined by SEF as students eligible for free and reduced lunch – has grown steadily since at least 1989, when low-income children were 37 percent of the region’s students in public schools.

The report shows that that the South’s new majority of low-income learners are the region’s students who lag far behind wealthier students in early childhood education, academic achievement, and graduation rates while the region provides them the nation’s least educational support. The South already has the nation’s largest population of adults lacking a high school or college education. SEF’s report calls educating low-income students “the most important challenge that the region and perhaps the nation will face in the early 21st century.”



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