Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Helping Students in Poverty Thrive at School

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Eugenia Toma is an education economist at the University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration. She and her colleagues recently produced an in-depth study of education policy in the Commonwealth. In preparation for the 2014 session of the General Assembly, Toma is sharing her research with legislators and other state officials who will make important decisions about the future of primary and secondary education in Kentucky

Toma will join me to discuss some of their findings on a special edition of Education Matters, Monday at 8 p.m. on KET. The show explores the impact of poverty on school performance and is part of our continuing exploration of poverty in Kentucky.

In the program we feature May Valley and John M. Stumbo Elementary Schools in Floyd County, as well as Fern Creek Traditional High School and the Neighborhood House community center in Louisville.

May Valley Elementary is one of the top-rated schools in the state. Principal Greta Thornsbury, teacher Kim Reed, and Floyd County Schools Superintendent Henry Webb will talk about how they engage all students to perform at high levels.

At John M. Stumbo Elementary, 95 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches. Despite this, the school is the top most-improved school in Kentucky. Principal Donna Robinson and Superintendent Webb will tell us how they accomplished that.

Neighborhood House has served the Portland community of west Louisville since 1896. Executive Director Pam Rice will talk about their goal of ending the cycle of generational poverty by using educational programs and social services to support local children.

Fern Creek Traditional High School went from being a persistently low-achieving school to a national model for a “turnaround” high school. Principal Houston Barber and assistant principal Rebecca Nicolas will explain the change.

During the program, I’ll explore with our panelists the economic, education, and social policies that contribute to academic success or failure among poor and at-risk students. My colleague Renee Shaw then discusses ways that schools, families, and communities can counter the effects of poverty. Our guests will be Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday; Roger Cleveland from Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Education; Dreama Gentry, executive director of Partners for Education at Berea College; Eugenia Toma, Wendell H. Ford Professor of Public Policy at UK; and Floyd County Schools Superintendent Henry Webb.

Here’s a preview of Education Matters: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty:

Reflections on Honduras

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Our KET production and public affairs team has been blessed with the talents of two bright young interns who worked with us as production assistants this past year. Anne Evans and Kara Ferguson helped us with the Fancy Farm broadcast last August, 2012 election coverage, our poverty project, and our recent trip to Washington for One to One conversations with Kentucky’s congressional delegation.

Sadly, both of them are leaving soon: Anne will attend graduate school at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and Kara will intern on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. Both have contributed mightily to our efforts to keep you connected to what’s happening in the public policy arena in the state. They will be missed.

Before we officially say goodbye to Kara and Anne, I wanted to give them guest spots on the blog to describe some recent travels they enjoyed. Kara went to Australia, and you’ll see her observations about the land down under soon. Anne took a mission trip to Honduras. These are her reflections and photographs:

* * *

About a week ago, I returned from an eye-opening, life-changing, and what I hope will be a career-sculpting medical mission trip in San Luis, Honduras. It’s a town of about 15,000 in a coffee-growing region that the Hondurans call the Department (think state) of Santa Barbara.

I do not work in the medical field. And unfortunately, I don’t speak any Spanish – at least not yet. My assignment was as a “general helper” in the pharmacy. I spent the majority of each day interpreting and preparing prescriptions for review by our pharmacist, prescriptions which were then distributed by one of the two translators working in the pharmacy. Because most of our patients were illiterate, the translators went over each prescription and asked the patient to repeat the dosage instructions until they had it memorized.

Patients begin lining up at 5 a.m. each day to see our medical team.  (Photos by Anne Evans.)

Patients begin lining up at 5 a.m. each day to see our medical team.
(Photos by Anne Evans.)

Many of the prescriptions for ibuprofen went to patients who had just had teeth pulled in our oral surgery room. I was shocked by the poor dental hygiene of most of our patients. Over the course of one week, we extracted 2,283 teeth, filled 4,156 prescriptions, and treated about 3,000 people. The last number doesn’t include the dental hygiene classes our group conducted with local school kids.

The poverty in San Luis was simultaneously more and less extreme than I had anticipated. The main streets were paved, while the majority of other roads were either gravel or dirt. Most houses in the countryside were built using a mixture of mud and woven tree branches. The average houses in the city were a step up from that, including some that were large, painted, and clean.

After working on KET’s The Price of Poverty series, I couldn’t help but compare the poverty we have in Kentucky with the deprivation I saw in Honduras. I’m not sure I’m ready to articulate any large conclusions, but a man on our Honduras trip said something that has stuck with me. “I know that we don’t have the answers to the long-term problems,” he said. “I know that we cannot permanently relieve the pain of our patients. But when you are suffering, any relief from that suffering, for any amount of time, is appreciated.”

Pharmacy team at clinic in Honduras.

The pharmacy team (minus two) at our clinic.

Small things that we, the community of our world, our country, or our state, can do to help others will always be appreciated. Even if you don’t have the answers to the biggest problems out there, you can still help to relieve the pain of others in some way. I believe small steps in the right direction can generate momentum that will lead to problem-solving on a larger scale. Individuals can absolutely make an important and positive impact, even if it’s through a short-term project. Step by step, we can move forward. And I think that is incredibly encouraging.

The Price of Poverty in Kentucky

Friday, June 14th, 2013

In the gripping new book “The Unwinding,” George Packer explores what he describes as an American democracy beset by a sense of crisis. Packer is a staff writer at The New Yorker and one of the nation’s finest political journalists. His “The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq” was named one of the best books of 2005. In “The Unwinding,” Packer examines the seismic shifts in American life that have created a country of economic winners and losers.

My colleague Renee Shaw and I have been exploring similar issues here in the Commonwealth, where we’re increasingly becoming a state of haves and have-nots. You can see the results of our reporting on The Price of Poverty in Kentucky 2, airing Monday at 8 p.m. on KET, and live on our website at It’s a follow-up to a program we aired in January. Here’s a promo for Monday night’s program:

In his New York Times review of Packer’s book, columnist David Brooks writes that the unwinding refers to “large transformations, which have each been the subject of an enormous amount of research and analysis. The first is the stagnation of middle-class wages and widening inequality.”

In our new program, we found Kentucky’s “working poor” and middle-class income earners struggling to make ends meet. In Owingsville in Bath County, where a local factory has closed, hundreds of people are on a waiting list for care at a free clinic, and a local social service center keeps busy distributing vouchers for clothes and food. Take a look:

In Louisville, a journalist with The Courier-Journal focuses her writing on how the economic meltdown changed the financial realities for many households in Jefferson and surrounding counties. We also asked professors, advocates, activists, and the president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to weigh in on whether raising the minimum wage is the answer to helping the working poor.

Poverty is a complex problem with no easy answer. You can explore it with us Monday night at 8 on The Price of Poverty in Kentucky 2. And, if you have a thought or comment about poverty in the Commonwealth, please share it with me here, on Facebook, or Twitter, or by calling the KET Viewer Reaction Line at (800) 926-7765.

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951