Last weekend the Denver Post reported that more and more students in the Denver Public School system are finding themselves homeless and hungry.
School officials said greater numbers of children find their parents jobless and unable to provide homes or meals. Many of these low-income students, elementary level in particular, are seeking free breakfast and lunch benefits provided through federal meal programs.
About 1,200 DPS students claimed homelessness in March of this year, 100 more than claimed homeless status just a year ago, and roughly 500 more students — up from 23,079 in 2007– fell below the poverty line in 2008.
Furthermore, many important social services once offered by public schools, including social work, counseling and psychology programs, are being cut due to tightening budget constraints.
And although some experts say the economy is showing some signs of recovery, these disturbing trends will likely get worse before they get better.
As is the case in any economic downturn, the most helpless in our society are bearing the brunt of this recession’s hardships, and children of low-income families already have more than enough of their metaphorical plates without having to contend with having too little on their literal plates.
Luckily, some help may be on the way.
President Obama’s federal education stimulus package will mean more than $900 million in funds for K-12 education in Colorado. A substantial percentage of these funds are slated to go to schools servicing low-income students.
With so many children relying on their schools for meals and social services, this stimulus is one step in the right direction. Let’s hope it’s not the last.