Working with a task force of mayors from across the country, a UCSB professor is hoping to curb the detrimental effects of poverty on students’ education.
Gevirtz Graduate School of Education professor Dr. Cynthia Hudley is currently researching programs that offer information and financial aid to families whose children are affected by poverty and deprived of quality education opportunities. She addressed this issue on March 30 at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Poverty, chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Hudley said poor education and low-paying jobs show a correlation.
“Poor education tends to consign one to a very low-wage life,” Hudley said. “Those people who are experiencing economic adversity are more likely to get a bad education, so that it’s reciprocal.”
While it is a commonly cited statistic, Hudley confirmed that a person’s income is directly proportional to their level of education.
“At every level of higher education, there is a qualitative increase in the amount of income one can expect to earn over their lifetime, and the difference between earning a high school diploma and not earning a high school diploma is not nearly as great as earning a high school diploma and earning a bachelor’s degree,” Hudley said.
Hudley said the government has the potential to stop poverty’s effect on education.
“Just a simple supplement of something like $100 a month, which will do something like ensure the stability of a roof over your head so you’re not always on the brink of homelessness, has been correlated with increases in children’s standardized test scores in reading and math,” she said.
In addition, Hudley said, K-12, two-year and four-year institutions should work together to inform parents and their children about the growing importance of higher education.
“Everybody up and down the pipeline needs to have a better understanding of what is going to be required,” Hudley said. “These different levels of education need to be talking to each other about the kinds of education that students actually need.”
Specifically, she said the University of California should stress the importance of high school Advanced Placement courses.
“The UC system has been engaged in a fair amount of outreach and some campuses have been more successful than others in getting all the way down to, say, middle school, in talking to kids and their parents about what it’s going to take to get through a competitive application process” Hudley said. “Everybody should be speaking in one voice about access to A.P. courses, for example, that apparently are increasingly necessary to get students into the more competitive campuses.”
Although the Task Force on Poverty is not in the position to enact policy on the federal or state level, Hudley said, its members can address the issues of poverty and poor education at city council meetings throughout the country.
“They can engage in more advocacy,” Hudley said. “They need to bring these issues into the conversation in their own cities, in their own states, and they need to advocate for changes.”
Hudley said Villaraigosa is currently trying to reform the L.A. public school system, which she said is riddled with problems.
“I can say that I think the current state of accomplishment in [the L.A. Unified School District] is very troubling,” Hudley said. “A dirty little secret, if you will, is that schools in high poverty areas tend to have teachers who are not qualified [at] teaching in their subject areas.”