Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by

Steve Suitts, author of NewSouth’s critically acclaimed biography, Hugo Black of Alabama, is also a senior staff member at the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation (SEF), which has just released a distressing new report on the extent of child poverty in the South.

“The Worst of Times: Children in Extreme Poverty in the South and Nation” finds that a large, growing number of children in the South and the nation live in extreme poverty—surviving on less than eight dollars per day. The report calls for the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to establish a national commission to assess the educational needs of children in extreme poverty.

The SEF report analyzes the latest census data and patterns on children in extreme poverty. More than 5.7 million children lived in extreme poverty in the United States in 2008 in a household with an income below 50 percent of the federal poverty line—and 2.4 million or 42 percent of those children lived in the South.

The SEF report estimates that the recent recession has expanded the number of children in extreme poverty by approximately 26 percent—adding almost 1.5 million children in extreme poverty across the nation since 2008.

The report also finds that:

* School districts with high concentrations of extremely poor children have a disproportionately large enrollment of students of color—primarily African Americans and Hispanics.

* School districts with the largest reported percentages of extremely poor children appear to have the least money to educate these children in the schools.

* Local, state or federal policies in education fail to specifically address the needs of the nation’s poorest children.

SEF’s report includes an appendix that lists the 100 school districts in the US with the highest rates of extreme child poverty and a list of the school districts with no extreme poverty among children.

The full report or a 4-page summary can both be accessed at The Southern Education Foundation.