“poor kids” and diversity

Brent Finnegan -- November 27th, 2006

Ever notice how dead blogs are over the holidays? I expect to be fairly inactive here between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

I was catching up on the news today, and couldn’t help but notice that the DNR ran this story about “poor kids” eating free lunches in the city, and how immigrants are causing the rise in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program in Harrisonburg.

I found it interesting, simply because WSVA has a headline up today: Diversity Not Living In Rockingham County. If SVA had permalinks, I’d post one here, but they don’t, so here:

Despite what you hear about the influx of immigrants into the area, census numbers show a much more one dimensional population.

New census numbers say that nearly 95-percent of those living in Rockingham County are white…that’s 20-percent higher than the rest of the country as a whole. Hispanics account for four percent and Blacks make up just one-percent of the county’s population…

Statistically, all this means is that the ethnic makeup of the city is different from that of the county. But I still have to wonder what anti-immigrant types think when they read the DNR story.


6 Responses to ““poor kids” and diversity”

  1. Gxeremio says:

    I read the article with some sadness, because I know the reporter and she should know better. The whole thing makes it seem like “school officials” are making the link, when it’s clear from the quotes in the story that this was a reporter’s hypothesis that they simply said may have some validity. I fired off a letter to the editor this afternoon, which I will reproduce below:
    “I was surprised to read that the DNR is trying to link a rise in economically disadvantaged children to immigration. I probably shouldn’t have been. In other recent articles, immigration has been linked to billions of dollars leaving the state (Oct. 25), gangs (Aug. 15), reduction in wages (Aug. 26), and even tuberculosis (Oct. 31). It certainly makes a juicy headline, but the fact is that these kinds of stories breed needless anger, fear and even hatred, while the numbers in the stories lie. For example, it would be true to say that in the same time period when immigration supposedly drove up free and reduced lunches (2000-2006), 3rd grade reading SOL scores jumped from 54% to 80%. Same time period, same students, same school division, and a similar set of numbers. Yet it somehow seems unlikely that we’ll see an article linking any such positive trend with immigration.
    The fact is, there may be some correlation between ESL numbers and the rise in students in poverty, but it is not nearly as neat a package as the article makes it seem. First of all, 57% of the students in Harrisonburg’s ESL program are U.S.-born, and thus citizens by birth. Second, the rise in free and reduced lunch could just as easily (and more truly) be linked to, well, a rise in economic need! Harrisonburg’s median household income was about $20,000 less than the state average in 2003, according to the Census bureau, while the percentage of foreign-born residents in the city was only one percent higher than the state average, at 9.2%.
    Immigrant bashing might sell more papers, but it hardly serves the community.”
    Too bad I couldn’t hyperlink the editorial in the paper!

  2. finnegan says:

    Good stuff, Gxeremio. Wonder if they’ll publish it.

  3. linz says:

    I was disappointed that two articles in today’s DNR referred to “poor kids.” When I was involved in the Boys & Girls Clubs, it would have been in bad taste for any of us adults to refer to those of our kids in the free and reduced lunch program as “poor kids.” I do not like what the term does to their self esteem, their relationships with their peers, and their view of their own parent(s). Although most kids are well aware of any financial troubles their families might be going through and it is not necessary to hide it from them, that should not make the children the recipients of such a label. The word “poor” has such a negative connotation in our society and stirs up steretypes for many, regarding such things as cleanliness and intelligence. And even if you do not agree with any of the reasons I have already given for being disappointed in today’s articles, you might agree with me that it is simplly illogical to call the children in the free and reduced lunch program “poor kids” because they really do not have control over their own finances. Children of “poor parents,” maybe? Hmm, don’t like that either.

    And now it’s in the DNR printed for themselves and many others to read. Oh, and the article about the knit hats for “poor kids?” If I knitted I might make a bunch for the “rich kids” as well so that the “poor kids” don’t have to wear “I’m poor” on their heads as they wait for the bus with their peers. It was a good deed by the woman who knitted the hats, but I hope the publicity doesn’t cause the kids to be labeled or made fun of. Let’s hope they’re young enough that it won’t be an issue. Still, what if one parent sees another parent walking their “I’m poor” knit hat adorned kid into the school… no secrets there…

    Then again, kids have a lot tougher stuff to deal with these days than being called poor.

  4. JGFitzgerald says:

    A fuller presentation might have revealed that having more kids on the lunch rolls increases some types of federal funding. The flip side is the feds don’t pay as much as it costs to carry out federal ESL rules. The story thus becomes less the relevance of the premise and more the breathlessness of the journalist. Was the story about what it costs the schools when the locality has a large immigrant population? Or was it just a young reporter finding an Easter Egg?

  5. Gxeremio says:

    Praise God for the small victories! ;-)
    There was a story in today’s DNR about a negative trend that WASN’T linked with immigration. Gas prices.
    They STILL haven’t published my letter to the editor from above, by the way.

  6. finnegan says:

    And they won’t.

    And welcome, former mayor of Harrisonburg to this blog.

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