Poverty and American Idol

Talk about a “reality” show. The Idol Gives Back show last night was really very good. I’m not a telethon kinda gal, but man, what a great way to show those of us comfy on our couches and safe in our living rooms a bit of real life.

I especially liked the segment on poverty and illiteracy in eastern Kentucky. What struck me most about the piece was how uneven funding for our education system continues to be, especially comparing rural to city school districts.

From the Save the Children website:

“A good education is one of the most important assets in overcoming the damaging impact of poverty. Yet,

There is less money per student spent on education in rural America. According to a Department of Education survey in 1995–96, public school districts that serve metropolitan areas spent a total of $7,010 per year per student. In rural public school districts, this expenditure was $5,302. Almost $2,000 more per student was spent annually on instruction in metropolitan areas. In 1998–99, 40 percent of US public schools were in rural and small towns and enrolled 26 percent of public school students, yet they received only 23 percent of federal education dollars.

Rural students fall behind their urban and suburban peers in high school, and fewer rural adults older than 25 hold a college degree than do urban adults (16 vs. 28 percent)”

I hate that schools are funded largely through property taxes. What makes a child in suburban Chicago more worthy than a child in a coal town in Appalachia of a good education? I hope this country finally elects leaders who are truly committed to education. No Child Left Behind my ass. One of the sorriest excuses for reform Bush republicans ever dreamed up.

Save the Children is one of the organizations that will receive money donated to last night’s Idols show. I went to their website and read the statistics on children living in poverty in the United States. Talk about ignorant. How ignorant is it of me to not know that one in six children live in poverty?

Also promoted on the show last night was the ONE Campaign. From the website: “The ONE Campaign derives its name from the belief that allocating an additional one percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world’s poorest countries. We also call for debt cancellation, trade reform and anti-corruption measures in a comprehensive package to help Africa and the poorest nations beat AIDS and extreme poverty.”

Go to ONE.org. Sign the declaration. Sign up for updates. Believe that extreme poverty can be eliminated in our lifetime.

To make a donation to Idol Gives Back, click here.

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