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NEA President Dennis Van Roekel: failing children is unconscionable

Latest poverty report should serve as a wakeup call


WASHINGTON - September 14, 2011 -

The U.S. Census Bureau released new figures showing the highest level of people living in poverty in the United States since 1993. According to the report, 15.1 percent of the population, or 46.2 million Americans, lived in poverty in 2010, compared to 14.3 percent in 2009. The Bureau also reported that the number of uninsured rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million 2010.

Among children under the age of 18, the poverty rate jumped to 16.4 million, or 22 percent, in 2010. The main reason for the alarming poverty rate is joblessness.

“Every day in America, more and more children are going to bed hungry and waking up not knowing where their next meal is going to come from or where they’re going to sleep at night,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “This is a troubling trend that keeps me up at night, because failing our children—the most vulnerable in our society—is unconscionable. This is America. We’re better than that.”

“As I visited schools across the country this week during NEA’s Standing Strong for Students Back-to-School Tour, I heard firsthand from educators about the devastating impact that unemployment is having on our communities, our schools and students. Unemployment isn’t just an economic issue — it’s an education issue. Children can’t learn if they’re hungry. They can’t learn if their family can’t afford to see a dentist or a doctor. They can’t learn if they’re anxious, nervous or have low self-esteem due to living in poverty.”

“The Census poverty report should serve as a wakeup call to all of us—policymakers and elected leaders of all political stripes, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, from Capitol Hill to the White House and state houses across America. We need to protect the social safety net that keeps millions of families from falling further into poverty, and we should demand that politicians work together to put people back to work right away,” concluded Van Roekel.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT:  Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823, mgonzalez@nea.org