Top teachers cite anti-poverty programs as No. 1 school reform necessity

In January, the Southern Education Foundation issued a report saying that for the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students — 51 percent — come from low-income families. That statistic came from a new analysis that the foundation did — using 2013 federal data — on the percentage of public school students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch programs, which has for years been used as a rough proxy for poverty. Critics said the figure was inflated because students can qualify for reduced-price lunches if their families earn an annual income of between 135-185 percent of the federal poverty limit, and they qualify for free lunches if their family has an annual income of at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. Given that the official poverty line for a family of four is $24,250, it is clear that many families above the line are struggling mightily to pay their bills every month.

My Post colleague Lyndsey Layton wrote a story about that report that included quotes from a teacher about the condition in which her students come to school. Here’s a sample:

“When they first comes in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches.

She helps them clean up with bathroom wipes and toothbrushes, and she stocks a drawer with clean socks, underwear, pants and shoes.

(Read more at the Washington Post)