Poverty report filled with good, bad news

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 30, 2000

Mississippi received some good news and some bad news Thursday, depending upon one’s perspective. A U.S. Census Department report showed a 5 percent drop in the number of children ages 5-17 who lived in poverty in 1997.

We think this is good – even great – news. Unfortunately the apparent decline means the state will likely lose federal education dollars.

Some state education leaders leaders doubted the validity of the report. They are convinced that Mississippi has many more disadvantaged children than the Census study suggests.

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It seems as if the issue comes down to the proverbial &uot;glass is half empty or half full&uot; debate.

Johnny Thornton with the state Department of Education dismissed the report.

&uot;I can’t believe that,&uot; he said, noting the number of poor students in Mississippi’s Delta.

Census officials say education personnel are upset because of the potential loss of funding.

According to the report, 23 percent of Mississippi students lived in poor families who earn an average of less than $16,400 each year. In 1995 that number was 28 percent. Nationally, 17 percent of students were deemed in poverty this year.

Sadly regardless of whether you believe the validity of the numbers are not, one thing is clear – Mississippi is still at the bottom rung. And residents of our state have two options. We can either quibble over a few numbers from a report or we can realize that no amount of federal funding will help solve the underlying factors that lead to poverty.

We must solve those on our own, one step up the ladder at a time. The sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can all see more good news come to our state.