Poverty should not stand in the way of education

intelligencer.ca – News/Editorial
July 8, 2010.

Education is largely regarded as the silver bullet to overcoming poverty. How ironic, then, that a recent study shows poverty has a serious impact on children’s ability to get an education.

The study, completed last fall, shows rural poverty, especially in the Centre and North Hastings areas, as well as in pockets of Prince Edward County, is pegged as a leading factor relating directly to challenges faced by youngsters entering the school system.

The Pan-Canadian Early Development Instrument EDI mapping shows pupils in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties face some of the highest percentage of vulnerability in almost all the five categories.
According to the study, kindergarten children here are up to 16 per cent more likely to struggle with poor physical health and wellbeing, up to 14 per cent more likely to struggle with social competence and up to 15 per cent more likely to battle with poor language and cognitive skills.

Those numbers are significantly higher than virtually any neighbouring regions.

Maribeth deSnoo, executive director of the Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation, said the study highlights trends that could pose a problem for local boards facing an increasing burden of supporting their neediest students. She said rural poverty seems to be an underlying issue.

“Even when you look at us in comparison to the rest in southeastern Ontario, certainly there are greater needs,” she said. “You’re looking at more vulnerable children.”

Jody DiRocco, superintendent for school effectiveness for the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, said the data “is good information for us to have so that we know that’s an area that we need to be targeting.

“It also speaks for the need for the school system to work in collaboration with other community agencies to ensure that all our families are supported,” he said.

The problem is current education funding virtually ignores all factors except student population (there are some concessions made to smaller, rural areas). Thus any efforts to overcome socio-economic issues within school boards comes at the expense of other schools, assuming boards even have the ability to tackle anything related to socio-economic issues.

The ideal situation would be for the provincial ministry of education to work alongside and in co-operation with at least the provincial ministry of children and youth services to ensure maximum support is being given to young people, before and during the education process.
If education is truly the key to helping people escape poverty, then we need to do everything possible to ensure poverty doesn’t then stand in the way to our children getting that education.

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