California Educator

November 2011

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COVER STORY LIVING LEARNING IN POVERTY Stories by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman Research assistance by Amy Braden Thanksgiving is coming, and Maria Cortez worries that there will be no feast for her family. Her husband lost his job, and her day care business has dried up because so many in her neighborhood are unemployed. She lives in La Puente in a one-bedroom unit built in the back of a house with her husband and three teenage children. CORTEZ TEARFULLY SAYS that she tells her children they must eat less, so items they receive from the local food bank will last longer. Last year she received a Thanks- giving food basket from Family Resource Center of Rowland Unified School District, where her children attend school. "I don't know what we will have to eat for Thanksgiving this year," Cortez tells Jennifer Kottke, the center's grant program coordina- tor, who is visiting to make sure the family is doing OK. Kottke, a member of the Association of Maria Cortez Rowland Educators, says it is difficult for the center to meet the rising needs of stu- dents and their families. "Some days are very hard," she says. "We are seeing more and more families living in poverty." Kottke is not alone. CTA members throughout the state say there are more poor, hungry and homeless families in their schools. Yet despite increasing poverty, schools are expected to close the achieve- ment gap single-handedly. Studies show poverty impacts academic achievement, but most schools have decreased services and programs helping poor students — even though they are more impacted by budget cuts than wealthier students. Meanwhile, billionaires such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad demand business-driven "reforms" to raise test scores, blame "bad teachers," and con- tinue to ignore the effects of poverty. Poverty may be the elephant in the room, but the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is prompting new conversations about equity, KLAMATH-TRINITY TEACHERS ASSOCIATION VALLEJO EDUCATION REDWOOD CITY TEACHERS ASSO 10 California Educator / November 2011

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