Court rules for poor kids in 21-year-old lawsuit, says SC hasn’t done enough to educate them

I hadn’t intended to post today beyond the Open Thread, but this is major, historic news.

I wish Steve Morrison, who led the charge on this for so long, had lived to see this:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that state government is not doing enough financially to guarantee a “minimally adequate” education for public school students in poor areas of the state.

The court ruled 3-2 Wednesday in favor of plaintiff districts in the 21-year-old school equity suit.

The court rejected state lawmakers’ arguments that decisions on school funding belong to the General Assembly, not the courts. Lawmakers had argued that they alone should determine what the state constitution’s “minimally adequate” means.

Justices, however, found that the school districts must better identify solutions for their districts’ needs and work with state lawmakers on how to fix them….

Of course, the big, billion-dollar question is, What will South Carolina DO about it?

It is, unfortunately, up to our General Assembly. As Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote:

“it is the Defendants who must take the principal initiative,” the ruling states, “as they bear the burden articulated by our State’s Constitution, and have failed in their constitutional duty to ensure that students in the Plaintiff Districts receive the requisite educational opportunity”

But WILL they? They, after all, are the ones who have fought this. How can the Court compel action in this case? I don’t know enough to say…

72 thoughts on “Court rules for poor kids in 21-year-old lawsuit, says SC hasn’t done enough to educate them

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    This statement just in from a couple of key Senate Democrats:

    Setzler and Matthews: Supreme Court Ruling Is A Win for Children in South Carolina

    For Immediate Release

    Columbia, SC- Today the South Carolina Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler (Lexington) and Assistant Minority Leader John Matthews (Orangeburg), issued the following statement in response to the South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling in funding lawsuit.

    “Today was indeed a great day in South Carolina especially for our children”, said Setzler. “For over a decade the citizens of this state have waited for a decision to be made on this issue because the implications of this decision would have tremendous impact on the children of South Carolina. A child’s educational opportunities should not be limited to where a child is born or the social economic status of the family the child is born to. As a state we have an obligation to provide the best quality education for our children. This is a huge win for the Palmetto State. I look forward to working in a bi-partisan manner with my colleagues in the House, Senate and at the local level to ensure we take the necessary steps to provide a first class public education system for our children in South Carolina”, Setzler added.

    “Today’s Supreme Court ruling was very special for me personally”, said Matthews. “As someone who represents school districts within the corridor of shame, I can tell you first hand this will have a significant impact on the future of those school districts. I was called in as an expert witness in the lawsuit and what I made clear to the court was simply this, if we (in South Carolina) want our children to effectively compete in an ever-changing global society, we must do whatever it takes to make sure our children’s opportunities are not defined by where they live,” Added Matthews.


    Now, we await similar statements from Republicans, who after all control the State House. Waiting. Still waiting…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Kidding aside, this is a great opportunity for Nikki Haley. This past session, she led an initiative to do more for kids in poor districts than state leadership had done in many a year.

      What if she actually continued that effort by EMBRACING this ruling and championing its implementation? Rather than, you know, just doing the usual, trite grumbling about judicial activism, big government, yadda-yadda?

      That would be something. Something worth applauding…

  2. Doug Ross

    Can you provide examples of other states where kids in poor communities do as well as those in communities that are better off?

    No amount of spending will fix these schools. The problem is the community, not the funding.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Doug, spending is not sufficient, but it IS necessary. These kids were trying to learn in appalling facilities, with leaking roofs, etc. Did you ever see Corridor of Shame?

      1. Doug Ross

        I don’t have to watch “Corridor of Shame”. I know what the result will be already. If you’re trying to drain the ocean, it doesn’t matter if you use a thimble or bucket.

        The problem is poor people having children they can’t care for. Everything else is a symptom of that reality. Fewer kids = more resources available per kid.

        Why should the rest of us be responsible for other people’s recurring bad choices? Once, sure. Twice, ok. But decades of bringing children into a world that requires others to support?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Because the children didn’t do anything wrong. Because we care about the future. Because we are all in this together….

          1. Doug Ross

            “We” is those have have that must be forced to give to those who don’t
            “We” apparently does not include those who are creating the problem because if it did, WE would all stop having kids we can’t provide for.

            It’s really US and THEM.

            If we actually cared about the future, we would use resources to discourage poor people from having children through education and incentives. In fact, we should PAY young mothers to NOT have children. Imagine THATprogram – every year from age 13 to 21 that you do not have a child, the government will give you a check for $2000 and will put a matching amount into a fund that can be used for education. That’s cheaper than the money that will be thrown down the drain on educating kids who will repeat the same cycle. Instead, we offer all sorts of benefits that make the decision (and it is a decision) to have a child in poverty less of a concern.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Level One: I’m not for paying people to do what they ought to do anyway, or paying them not to do things they ought not to do. Are we going to pay young guys not to hold up liquor stores? Mind you, I take a dim view of the idea of paying kids to get good grades, too.

                Level Two: I am a member of a fertility cult (I’m Catholic), so I object on theological grounds. But seriously, folks, it bothers me on a fundamental level to interfere with other people’s fecundity. It smacks of eugenics. Who do we think we are?

                Level Three: We NEED young people. Our economy needs them. We just need them to be well-fed, well-nurtured and well-educated.

                Level Four: This business of focusing on rewards and punishments with regard to the prospective mothers (and fathers — are we going to incent them as well?) seems off-base. It’s not about the parents; it’s about the children. That’s our concern. Why would we waste money on the child who is NOT born, when it’s the child who HAS been born, to a single mother without means, who needs our help (and whom it is in our interest to help)? It’s backwards…

            1. Doug Ross


              Every one of your concerns is easily refuted.

              1) Giving people an incentive to avoid bad behavior occurs all the time. You can’t get a S.C. lottery LIFE scholarship if you get caught using drugs or alcohol more than once. This is no different.

              2) There is no eugenics. There is no interfering with fecundity. None. Certainly you aren’t suggesting that women only have sex for procreation, right? And that birth control is forbidden? This would give young women a choice – a reason to consider the consequences of her actions.

              3) Sure, we need young people. We need young people who are not destined for poverty. We need young people who are productive and cared for. A woman can have a baby at age 22 instead of 18. That can make a big difference.

              4) If you remove X% of the poor children, there will be greater resources to expend on the rest. Wouldn’t that be better?

          1. Doug Ross

            So it is not possible to reduce the number of poor women having children. Impossible. They are incapable of learning that one basic concept but we can spend tens of thousands of dollars to try and teach them algebra.

            Where do you guys go to get your co dependency indoctrination?

            1. Norm Ivey

              Of course we should invest in education of the type you advocate. I’ve no problem with that, but you can’t ignore the children that are already with us. They deserve the best education we can provide. The idea that our educational system strives only to be “minimally adequate” is an embarrassment.

              We need to increase health care access for women in poor areas of the state. We need to provide accurate, relevant information to students while they are still in school. But doing those two things would mean doing two things that would be terribly unpopular in South Carolina–raising taxes and providing sex education that goes beyond abstinence-only to younger students.

            2. Barry

              I am sure we can convince some not to have children- but probably not many.

              Kids that have kids (and other young, unprepared women) typically aren’t educated, don’t have much confidence, and typically have a “I’ll do what I want, when I want, with who I want” attitude.

            3. Mike Cakora

              Let’s put some money into single-sex academies where the kids can receive instruction free from distractions of the opposite sex. Staff the academies for males primarily (but not exclusively) with males, and the academies for females primarily with females. Establish and enforce dress and conduct codes while on school premises, etc. Engage and encourage the whole wide world of personal development: scouting (likely church-sponsored), JROTC, church-directed after-school activities, etc.

              It’s not just a money problem, it’s a socioeconomic, i.e., cultural, problem. You can waste a lot of money funding ineffective measures. Let’s fund the programs that have a track record of success.

            4. Brad Warthen Post author

              Welcome back to Mike Cakora! Folks, this is Mike’s second comment today, and these are his first in a long while. He’s always been a thoughtful, discerning contributor, and it’s great to have him back…

        2. M. Prince

          “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass. Might I add that it is also cheaper, too.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    “I wish Steve Morrison, who led the charge on this for so long, had lived to see this”
    my first thought!
    i hope Gail is deriving some comfort from this.

    1. Norm Ivey

      What will South Carolina do about it?

      Nothing. But I would take real delight in being proved wrong.

  4. barry

    There is no reason facilities at school in South Carolina should be substandard. But that is the situation in parts of South Carolina today. That is reality. There is no reason for it.

    However, and Brad knows this because I’ve told him, my wife is a public school teacher at a school that has no real lack of resources. I am sure there are things they could use- but they would be extras – not basics. The building is modern (new). Every student has a new computer provided to them. Teachers use them and teach on them. They are helpful.

    However, her school WAY TOO many students that come from totally screwed up homes. The resources don’t overcome the lack of stability that is encountered at home. In fact, it doesn’t come close. That is also reality.

    As a result (and I found out this last week) – there are teachers at her school that are on medication so they can function in their private lives – because of the situations they deal with at school.

    The situations my wife tells me about on a daily basis makes me sad, mad, frustrated, bitter, disappointed, and numb – and I only hear about it. My wife has to deal with it and she’s having a terrible, terrible year so much that is affecting her health and our children.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Um, because someone’s wife teaches at a school that is able to provide computers to all students, and is in a new building, yet there are still kids from messed-up homes–THIS is “REALITY”?!?!

        The schools that were the subject of the lawsuit were extremely old buildings, and the kids did not have BOOKS, much less computers. As I said, adequate funding is not sufficient, but it is necessary.

        Or did my logic confuse you?

        1. Barry

          That’s why I said old buildings aren’t adequate. That’s a no brainer. There shouldn’t be kids in schools that are broken down.

          It if were left to me- every middle and high school student in South Carolina would be provided a computer- and I’d fund – at the state level- an IT department for every district so that adequate IT resources and training were implemented for every school district.

          I’d also offer free lunches to every student in public school. No more applying for free or reduced lunch.

          But new facilities and those items won’t adequately help our students where the sources of poverty are no jobs, and broken homes and families.

          They will have nice buildings, and comuters- but the kids will still be in deep, deep trouble.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            I was answering Doug, not you, Barry. I agree that there are still going to be kids with bad homes and that that is a huge problem, but even kids from good homes have trouble learning in such derelict facilities, without books.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              I grew up surrounded by “books” — but nary a math or science textbook. These schools lack enough textbooks, and current enough ones!

            2. Doug Ross

              Please… you don’t need new books to teach math.

              Anyway – I’ve been down this path before. Here’s the data from the S.C> Dept of Education school report cards for Allendale district for 2013.

              Dollars spent per pupil $13,493 Up 3.0%
              Similar districts spent: $11,138
              Median district in the state: $9,101

              % of students who did not meet PASS standard in English: 53%
              % of students who did not meet PASS standard in Math: 60%

              Where is that extra $4300 PER STUDENT going? And why is it still a Below Average district when its had some of the highest per pupil spending in the state for many years?

              Sometimes you have to look past the emotional response and consider the data.

              I’d just like to hear those people who think the court ruling is a big deal admit that spending at the worst districts is already much higher but needs to go higher still without any guarantee of improvement.

            3. Doug Ross

              This is the B.S. you see in the school report cards that drives me nuts – the report from the superintendent starts with this:
              “It is with tremendous honor and gratitude that I serve as
              Interim Superintendent of the Allendale County Schools.
              The district has established a special legacy of service to
              its students. ”

              Really? A special legacy of service? By special, do you mean “abject failure”?

            4. barry

              I think most adults would be surprised at the textbooks kids do have these days.

              My son’s 8th grade math book is only a basic guide to his math work. I’ve looked at it. He leaves it at home 90% of the time- and he says that’s what everyone in his class does. They work off of worksheets, and the teacher uses her smart-board.

              My 5th grader does read a little out of his social studies book. But most of his “book reading” comes from library books, or he uses worksheets, or a weekly reader type sheet that they get each week.

              They rarely open a text-book.

            5. barry

              I agree. Poor facilities in these poorer areas are a problem and should be corrected. There is no excuse for that.

            6. Kathryn Fenner

              You don’t need a new math textbook, but you do need A textbook, or a computer with the information on it, or a copier and enough paper and a teacher who can construct lessons to be copied. None of which some of these schools have.
              I might have been a scientist, but the quality of the science equipment at Aiken High–not Allendale–Aiken, home of the Savannah River Site, was so poor, I never could get a microscope that would focus. My parents took us to Augusta, where they had to pay for a library card, after I finished off the Aiken (Barnwell, Bamberg and Allendale) library’s suitable offerings. That took a lot of commitment. I understand Aiken has gotten better–but it COULD. There is a sufficient tax base. These poor rural districts need assistance with funding the basics!

        2. Doug Ross

          Yes, Kathryn, this is REALITY. You can fix every school in South Carolina to match the palaces in Richland 2 … and you can give every kid an iPad, iPhone, and Google Glasses.

          And you know what will result? 30-40% of them will still be illiterate by 8th grade. That’s what we have in Richland 2 where there’s plenty of money,

          Spend all you want. It won’t make a difference.

          As I asked before, please provide me the name of a state where there is a town with a below average income level but better than average schools.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Reaction from the state Democratic Party:

    Statement on School Equity Decision by the Supreme Court

    Columbia, SC — Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison released this statement after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the State Legislature does not have the sole ability to determine minimally adequate standards for education.

    “This has been twenty-one long years in the making. Today’s decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court is an historic victory for the underserved children in poor and rural communities across our state,” said Harrison. “The opportunity to receive a high-quality education should never be limited to geography or economic condition. I’m proud that students from urban centers like Greenville to the rural parts of Orangeburg will now receive the education they deserve. It’s time for the Legislature to stand up and make sure we provide every child the education they need to succeed.”


  6. Brad Warthen

    The two key questions at this point are these:

    1. What power does the court have to compel action by the General Assembly (or by school boards, or other responsible entities?)

    2. What, precisely, would it compel those parties to DO? What’s the plan?

    1. Doug Ross

      21 years wasted on lawsuits…

      You want to fix it? Make the worst ten counties in the state “wards of the state” and combine them into a single entity run out of Columbia by people appointed by the Governor.

      You think the lousy districts even know how to handle whatever additional funding comes there way? It will be gone faster than you can say “Allendale”.

      1. Doug Ross

        You understand that any change to the Corridor of Shame will absolutely require that most of the people in power in the local government and school boards and school administrations will have to be replaced, right? Or do you think their all highly functioning people just waiting for some more money to flow in?

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Doug, on this, you and I are in agreement: “Make the worst ten counties in the state ‘wards of the state’ and combine them into a single entity run out of Columbia by people appointed by the Governor.”

        Under the principle of subsidiarity, I’ve always believed in functions being performed at the smallest, most local level at which they can be competently performed, with the larger, more central structures existing to do what the smaller, more local ones are unable to do effectively.

        In keeping with this, I not only opposed the existence of the federal Department of Education, but thought local school boards should run schools. But I eventually concluded that too often, local school boards are unable to carry out their function effectively. This argues for the state having ultimate responsibility for education — which means taking over when local boards prove themselves unable.

        1. barry

          Is anyone calling for that type of change in our state house? If so, I haven’t seen it.

          If the state is going to do that, there has to be clear guidelines and rules established for when that occurs.

          Absent that – It seems like, at a minimum, the state could pass a law requiring that anyone elected to a school board position be required to complete a certification class in basic accounting, budgeting best practices, basic law, risk management, and a class on the challenges teachers face in the classroom regarding disciplinary issues, and lack of parental involvement so they at least get a feel for what teachers face when boards put pressure on teachers not to remove innocent Johnny from the classroom for his repeated disciplinary problems.

          It would be similar to a law enforcement officer, once accepted into a job, has to complete the criminal justice academy required courses.

          1. Doug Ross

            It is very likely that most of the school board members in the worst districts would not be able to pass those exams and would claim they were racist.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              It is probable that many even in the better districts could. Ever since I was drafted onto several charity boards as a young lawyer, I have marveled at how little training almost any of them give. I sure didn’t know what I was doing.
              I do believe this sort of training should be required of all board members, charitable or governmental.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      To address your first question: The Court states: “Thus, the General Assembly is primarily responsible for school finance reform. Id. In light of this sacrosanct principle, we refuse to provide the General Assembly with a specific solution to the constitutional violation.” (p. 32

      and then goes on to say:

      “As we explicitly acknowledged above, the Defendants are the sole arbiters of educational policy choices. Rather than dictating that the Defendants follow our own views on how to fix the problems faced by the Plaintiff Districts, which would grossly exceed our judicial authority, we merely offer our discussion of these two cases as a suggestion to the Defendants on where they might turn to obtain guidance in their future policy decisions.” (p.33)

      I read this as the Court basically saying: We find your current situation does not meet the threshold of what is mandated by the State Constitution, but it’s not up to us to fix your problem. We’re just here to say that you have a problem. You figure out how to fix it.

      To address your second question, the Court held:

      “Therefore, we direct both the Plaintiff Districts and the Defendants to reappear before this Court within a reasonable time from the issuance of this opinion, and present a plan to address the constitutional violation announced today, with special emphasis on the statutory and administrative pieces necessary to aid the myriad troubles facing these districts at both state and local levels. However, we give leave to the parties to suggest to the Court precisely how to proceed. In particular, we invite the parties to make additional filings suggesting a specific timeline for the reappearance, as well as specific, planned remedial measures. Until the reappearance, we will retain jurisdiction of this case.”

      Basically, I read that as the Court saying: Go figure out what your plan is and come back later to let us decide if that meets the Constitutional threshold.

      Full text of the Court’s opinion here:

  7. Karen Pearson

    You want to reduce the number of children born to impoverished parents? One way that has been demonstrated again and again in 3rd world countries is to lift those persons out of poverty. That means education, both sex-ed that talks about contraception, and vocational ed. Then ensure that the jobs you trained them for are there. As populations become richer the birth rate in those populations drops. Meanwhile, I’m willing to pay more taxes to try to provide the education these people need to have a chance to stop the inheritance of poverty and ignorance.

      1. Barry

        It’s not just a matter of paying more taxes. Money is a factor in some situations.

        I could writ e 10 books on this subject and it couldn’t capture the systematic problems inherit in many districts.

        Money is one issue, but there are so many more problems that more funding won’t correct.

  8. Karen Pearson

    You are right, Barry. It will need more than money, but it will also take money. Doug, if it were hopeless, then the population drop that has been demonstrated to accompany decreased poverty could not have happened. And it has. Many times.

    1. Doug Ross

      ” the population drop that has been demonstrated to accompany decreased poverty”

      Can you please explain what that means and provide an example?

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    Nikki Haley, who likes to trumpet her knowledge of the Bamberg schools where she grew up, went to Orangeburg Prep, not Bamberg High, even…

  10. o

    I think one commenter is really worked up. I wonder if in his Sunday School class he’s ever read Matt. 25:41 as he seems to complain so frequently about the poor. He’s fortunate to be able to pay taxes as I am. I’m sure he’s a proponent for a Christian nation and the “love it or leave it” Republican mantra.

    1. Doug Ross

      I believe in personal charity, not turning that duty over to the government. I also believe in putting my name on my opinions instead of hiding behind a letter. Does your God expect you to hide in the shadows in fear?

      It’s sad when people believe spending other people’s money is a measure of their compassion.

    2. Barry

      The church angle is a very poor angle.

      I give money every week to my church for various items (church budget, missions, outreach, paying for kids to go to camp, food pantries, transportation, etc).

      My church is very responsible with their monies. I attend budget meetings, have input on the budget as do all church members, and receive monthly budget statements as do all church members to make sure we are being wise, and responsible with the money that folks give.

      I, like Doug, see little value in turning over my responsibility for those less fortunate to the federal bureaucracy anymore than is required by tax law.

    1. Doug Ross

      Which is why I want to pay women not to have children they can’t afford. That’s the real objective isn’t it?

  11. Karen Pearson

    Doug, paying women not to have children is costly, too. And it doesn’t change the situation for the next crop of children coming along (and there will always be more; teens are not good at weighing possible consequences, and sex is, in the short term, cheap entertainment. You might be better off paying boys not to have children. Good luck. Either way, it costs, and doesn’t change the basic problem. If you’re going to spend money, lets go for more bang for the buck. Instead of arguing that it shouldn’t be done (after all, you are already spending the money on something) let’s take a hard look at what is working in the world, and try to import it. It may cost a little more now, but I think it would prove to be the more fiscally prudent thing to do over time. If it helps, I agree that just throwing money at the problem won’t do much good. We need to add time and talent to treasure.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      So many children are not planned or wanted. Merely throwing money at the problem might help a few young women, but won’t change the ignorance, lack of access to reliable family planning, and general lack of appreciation for consequences that immature brains have.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Sure, but we aren’t, and condoms are not terribly reliable, even when used perfectly, especially for the super-fertile young. We need to greatly enhance access to the reliable methods that are only available through health care providers.
          Abstinence-only education has been shown to correlate with an INCREASE in birth rates.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Correlation is VERY easy to establish. Causation is subject to all those variables.
              The theory why the rate is higher, is that a lot of kids are just going to do it anyway, but think they won’t because of all the abstinence pressure. Then when they do it, they are unprepared.

    2. Doug Ross

      Paying a poor woman to delay having children would be MUCH cheaper than paying for 13 years of schooling that results in failure followed by government assistance for the rest of their lives.
      Allendale spends $13K per student per year.

      It would also force the discussion into homes and communities. If a parent got a check for $2500 every year between age 13 and 18 that their daughter remained childless, I bet they’d take a WHOLE lot more interest.

      I’d also pay students in lower performing schools a $10K bonus for graduating high school.

      Two simple principles: People respond to incentives. More money doesn’t equate to better education outcomes.

      We spend 50% more per pupil in Allendale than an average school district in South Carolina. The results are abysmal. Tell me how much more money it will take that you would guarantee a significant change in the outcomes. Double? Triple? Quadruple? There is a point of diminishing marginal returns in spending on education where no further gains will be made due to a wide variety of other circumstances: innate intelligence, parental support, individual drive, teacher quality, etc.

  12. o

    I came across a recent perspective from Jayson Flores that may be enlightening or maybe not for some individuals. Below my following comments.
    The majority of poor in SC are white and with our history of forced “immigration from those from West Africa,” counting each as 3/5 ths of a person in the land of the free in our “Christian nation,” imposing the ultimate “minimum wage” on them thereby Impowering and enriching their “bosses” with land and great economic gain, and the delayed integration (some 16 years after Brown), it’s no wonder that this disparity in education and advancement still exists.
    I live a few miles from a white flight community whose demographics show that more than 98% are white with median incomes twice that of the state median and no wonder that their schools lead the state in “academic achievement”.
    It might also be beneficial to look back at the Carnegie Commission’s Report on education from the late 80s to get an informed perspective on our structure of public education.
    I’m grateful that Judge Sanders and the SC Court of Appeals approved the “sale – lease back” option for counties a few years ago as our county had voted down three bond referendums to improve and expand our minimal school facilities. I could go on, but the facts aren’t going to have any impact on some individuals. It just gives my fingers some exercise this am. Pls overlook any spelling or punctuation errors.

  13. o

    Jayson’s perspective..

    “Why should I pay higher taxes so that some lazy poor person can pick up another unemployment check and then go back to sitting on the couch and spending my money?” This is the increasingly commonplace question posed by Everyday Feminism in their article titled, “How We Ignore Poverty and Blame the Poor.”

    Assertions about the poor being lazy, thieving leeches on society are not surprising coming from Tea Party Members and many in the Republican Party, however, harmful beliefs about those in poverty are becoming increasingly common throughout the United States. Blaming the poor is troubling because it hinders solutions to assist the poor, and prevents learning.

    It is one of the biggest misconceptions (or lies) about this country that is one of the main causes of hostility towards the poor. The United States prides itself on a promise of equal opportunity. However, the simple truth of the matter is that this promise is a farce. Everyday Feminism cites a perfect example of the rubbish that is equal opportunity, “Some people are born with a trust fund and a summer house in the Hamptons. Some are born to a single-parent low-income family in a city slum.” They continue by challenging someone to explain how factors like, “family situation growing up, level of education, the job opportunities you are handed, the rate of crime and drug use in your neighborhood” could possibly have zero affect on a person’s future.

    With the belief of equal opportunity so strong, it empowers the idea that the poor are lazy. Many believe that poverty is something that can be broken out of with hard work alone. However, a poor kid who lives in a city slum is only afforded certain opportunities — the jobs around their area and the schools in their area are too large factors. If young people are unable to obtain quality education it will severely hinder their ability to apply and get into college. Likewise, it is difficult for those same poor young people to obtain decently paying jobs if they were only able to build work experience through service jobs (fast food, clothing stores, are two examples).

    Lack of understanding of these realities is what continues to strengthen negativity towards the poor. Barbara Ellen of the Guardian explains that poor shaming, as she calls it, is becoming a “national bloodsport.” She cites slut-shaming, a trend of mocking and justly embarrassing young women who partake in sex and sexual activities in a style or quantity that is against society’s norms, as similar to poor shaming. She states, “On a wider level, one disquieting feature of these modern takes on slut shaming is how quickly (indeed shamelessly) they embedded themselves into the collective psyche as borderline normal.” She continues, “How long would it take for “poor-shaming” to embed itself in the national psyche as borderline normal? Or perhaps it has already done so?”

    Ellen’s point is well taken, as it appears as though people have little to no difficult in insulting and degrading the 48 million people (according to of the most recent census data) that live in poverty. Making judgments about an entire group is never appropriate, and will always be an extension of prejudice. Citizens and politicians both fight for the stripping of safety net spending, because people have rallied around falsities about the poor. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 is fighting to increase minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. “Almost six million workers would be lift out of poverty.” Unfortunately this step forward can’t and won’t occur until the support of the Congress and general populace is won. Blaming the poor stands directly in the way of this progress.

    At the end of the day it is impossible to cast judgment on a group of millions of people. There is no proof that poor people are lazy, and there is no proof that they are not trying to escape poverty. There is no evidence that proves that government assistance drastically improves the lives of “lazy” people. In fact, America’s Wire reports, “Not all poor families qualify for all the various assistance programs, and amounts they receive are relatively modest, enough to keep some from falling below the official poverty line of $21, 954 for a family of four.” They add, “ … but not enough to move them far above it.” Why then should we punish them? In our judicial system we live by a policy of “innocent until proven guilty,” so why can we not apply this idea to our beliefs about the poor? Poor blaming is just a way to escape learning.

    Some people refuse to accept the privileges that they have, in favor of a reality where we are all equal in the United States. Until we stop blaming, and start listening and helping, the inequality and hatred towards the poor in this country will continue for years, maybe decades to come. Worst of all, it may never end.

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