ellohay! West Michigan

Grand Rapids (poverty, illiteracy)

Posted in discovery stages, education, links for community, potential problems by forgr on March 4, 2008

Grand Rapids makes national news, for our high illiteracy rates:

“Grand Rapids, a city of 184,000, one out of every five residents has difficulty reading or cannot read at all.”

“Grand Rapids’ adult illiteracy rate of 21 percent is just slightly above the state average of 18 percent…” More.

And yesterday, this headline from the Grand Rapids Press:

“One in 3 public school students lives in poverty”

“Today, at least one in three students — 51,500 children — at traditional public schools in Kent and Ottawa counties are poor. In Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville schools, four of every five live in poverty, according to federal statistics on students who get free or reduced-price school lunches.”

“Grand Rapids Public Schools, historically a high-poverty district, has gone from 66 percent to 81 percent poor students in the past seven years, forcing schools to become “full-service, one-stop social service agencies,” Superintendent Bernard Taylor said. “We’re not just dealing with education.”

“The state is in a recession, and the people who get hurt the most are the children who need the most. It’s a travesty,” said Susan Neuman, a University of Michigan professor and former assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education under President Bush.”

“Some funding comes through grants for at-risk students and the federal Title I program. Grand Rapids, for example, received millions in 1999 to limit most elementary classrooms to 19 students. Those grants expired in 2003.

But many elementary schools waste Title I dollars on classroom aides or computer labs, Neuman said.

‘Better to get a highly qualified teacher,’ she said. ‘That would make a difference. And do we really need that computer lab? If kids can’t read, they can’t use a computer effectively. Get rid of it and get more books.’

Grand Rapids has not ditched the computer labs, but it has obtained more books. The Student Advancement Foundation, its fund-raising arm, updated all 47 school libraries since 2004 with $1.6 million in donations.” More.

From AccessKent’s website:

“The per capita income for the County was $21,629. Of the population for whom poverty status is determined, 12.1% is below the poverty level. Out of the total people living in poverty, 38.4% are under the age of 18 and 4.80% are 65 or older. ” Read more employment statistics here.

So…

My mom mentioned that she saw that story linked above on illiteracy on the news the other night, and brought up a good point, How can we include literacy programs into our program? We could get some serious backing (financial…) if we were to incorporate elements into this program as well.

If people can’t read, how can they use computers? And, no we can’t save the world with computers… but we can work to ‘bridge the gap’ by ‘raising the bar’… can’t we? If we at least provide resources to our clients for literacy programs, we’re helping there, right?

What else can we do? Should we focus on just technology, education, resources and support for functioning online? Is this the venue for universally boosting the under-served?

What about the environment? There’s also a lot of money being poured into our community to promote and support environmental causes too, what is our focus?

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