A recent bulletin by the Southern Regional Education Board sounds an alarm for children of the South.

Another 1.1 million children were added to the ranks of poverty in SREB’s member states.

That’s as many as in the whole rest of the country, said the board, citing U.S. Census figures.

The South continues to lead the rest of the nation in the number of children in poverty.  Forty-four percent of America’s poverty-stricken children live in our region.

This is not a “leadership” designation we can afford to have.

What does this mean for education?

It increases the challenges school systems face in imparting to children the learning they need. 

Research shows that children from low-income families, on average, “graduate from high school, continue to college and complete bachelor’s degrees at much lower rates than children from affluent families,” SREB said. “Children from poverty-level families have even lower rates.”

And that means, among other things, that the South may lack sufficient ability to graduate the skilled and educated workforce that employers are looking for. It’s a Catch-22: Good companies with good jobs paying good wages are necessary to help lift a population out of poverty, but those companies aren’t going to locate in an area with a high rate of poverty and low rate of education.

Virginia, as might be expected, fares better than many of its neighbors, but still lost ground compared to the previous mark. The commonwealth ranked 40th among states and the District of Columbia in overall poverty in 2010, as compared to 42nd in 2005. For the child poverty rate, Virginia remained in the 43rd slot.

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