EDITORIAL: Good news on the education front but persistent poverty threatens

December 18, 2013 

The Bibb County school system and other districts are rightfully proud of the recent graduation statistics released by the state Department of Education. All districts are following the four-year cohort now, and the statewide graduation rate has increased from 69.7 percent in 2012 to 71.5 percent in 2013. Locally, Bibb went from 54.6 percent in 2012 to a 61.1 percent graduation rate in 2013.

Southwest High School, the local poster child of low graduation rates in 2012 at 39 percent, climbed to 45.6 percent.

By way of comparison, in 2012, Jones County had a graduation rate of 71.3 percent. In 2013, they took that number to 76.6 percent. Twiggs County went from a 48 percent grad rate to 75.3 percent. The only system in the area to give up ground was Peach County, it dropped from 66.2 percent to 63.3 percent.

But there is a shadow that looms over most of Middle Georgia that has a great impact on every aspect of education: poverty. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute released a report Tuesday, “Recovery or Bust: Georgia’s Poor Left Behind” (http://gbpi.org/recovery-or-bust-georgia%e2%80%99s-poor-left-behind). The report should scare everyone from the General Assembly that supplies most of the funds for education to the janitors in every school system.

The report finds these key points:

• Georgia ranks as the sixth worst state for child poverty. Child poverty rose to 27.2 percent in 2012, up from 24.8 percent in 2010.

• Lagging educational opportunities and achievement among poor children and adults reinforce the cycle of poverty.

• A rise in lower-quality jobs contributed to the rise in poverty since 2010. About 123,000 Georgians ages 16-64 live in poverty, even though they work full time. The GBPI states in the report: “Unless Georgia addresses the fundamental causes of persistent poverty in Georgia, low-income Georgians will continue to struggle for economic survival instead of being valuable resources to the state.”

We can pay more now in an attempt to mitigate the persistent issues that lead to poverty, or we can continue to waste the human potential that poverty sucks from those impoverished and society.

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