1. Giang Trinh
Education and Poverty in Florida
Poverty is a global issue – it exists everywhere, even in wealthiest places. In Florida, poverty is
also a difficult problem that we have yet been able to solve because its causes and effects are so
complicated. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 17.2% of Florida’s population
is in poverty in 2012, which means over 3 billion people do not have enough food, shelter, and clothing
to live healthily (“State”). The insufficient education here is one of the issues associated with poverty –
they have mutual effects on each other and cannot be solved separately.
The lack of education is one important reason why poverty has been increasing in Florida.
Degrees are undeniably a measure of our abilities, so they are the first thing employers look at when
they decide whether to hire us and which amount of salary to offer. With a low level of education, we
cannot apply for good jobs or raise our wages. Even when we want to start our own business, we need to
learn how to analyze current economic trends and how to manage our resources so that our business
operates well – these kinds of knowledge are better learned at school than from self-experience. In
Florida, many people live in poverty because they do not have sufficient education and cannot earn
enough to raise their families. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, among the
people 25 and older in Florida, 14.2% do not complete high school, 29.8% only complete high school,
and 29.8% complete some college. These high rates of insufficient education account for the low
earnings and the high unemployment rates here (“State”). According to the United States Bureau of
Labor, while the average earning of full-time workers is $827 and the overall unemployment rate is
6.1%, those not completing high school only earn $472 a week and have an unemployment rate of 11%,
those only completing high school earn $651 a week and have an unemployment rate of 7.5%, and those
not completing college earn $727 a week and have an unemployment rate of 7% (“Employment”). If we
want to reduce poverty in Florida, we definitely have to improve the level of education here.
2. Giang Trinh
Given the importance of education in determining our jobs and incomes, the best solution to
poverty is investment in education. The question now becomes how to invest into education. The
problem is that not only is insufficient education a cause of poverty but poverty also affects our level of
education. In her report “Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence,” Helen Ladd gives
evidence that poor children perform less well at school than children from middle class and wealthy
families. She studied the gap in standardized test scores between children from low and high income
families, and the result is shocking: when first measured in the early 1940s, the gap in reading
achievement was about 0.6 standard deviations, but it “subsequently more than doubled to 1.25 standard
deviations by 2000” (3). She also explains that the reasons include “poor health, limited access to home
environments with rich language and experiences, low birth weight, limited access to high quality pre-
school opportunities, less participation in many activities in the summer and after school that middle
class families take for granted, and more movement in and out of schools because of the way the
housing market operates for low income families” (3). Besides, the mind-set of the poor is keeping their
level of education low. Although most poor people, if not all, know that raising the level of education
will improve their living standards, many of them do not put much effort into studying. According to A
Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby Payne, one “hidden rule” between three states of living
– poverty, middle class, and wealth – is that poor people value and revere education as abstract but not
as reality (42). To them, working to help raise their families is more practical than spending time and
money on education. This way of thinking is actually not unreasonable because the tuition fees of
thousands of dollars a year are too high for those living on a few dollars a day. Therefore, we need to
solve poverty in order to solve the lack of education, and vice versa.
Given the complicated inter-relationship between education and poverty, the only solution to
poverty is to make education accessible and more meaningful for poor people. In “The Poverty
3. Giang Trinh
Reduction Strategy Papers: An Analysis of a Hegemonic Link between Education and Poverty,” Aina
Tarabini and Judith Jacovkis say that “any strategy to reduce poverty should remove obstacles and
facilitate access to education and training for the poor” (8-9). I agree with their strategies to provide
cost-effective and better-targeted teaching programs. First, the main reason why poor people cannot
access education is the high tuition fees. This is concerned with the cost-effective element. Sometimes
schools’ funds are not allocated wisely. For example, my college, Stetson University, spent $35,000 on a
pile of rock intended for raising school spirits, which turned out to be a failure. Therefore, schools
should cut on ineffective and irrelevant costs in order to lower tuition fees. On the other hand, the
government should reallocate the money they earn from taxes and spend more on education; this will
provide more funds for schools and help lower tuition fees. Charity organizations should also have more
programs that provide free education for poor people. Moreover, the curricula at school should be better-
targeted – general education should be optional so that poor students can spend more time and money on
subjects that they really need to learn to find jobs. If poor people can afford good-quality education, they
would be able to find better jobs and eventually get out of poverty.
Education and poverty in Florida are related issues – the lack of education causes poverty, and
poverty prevents sufficient education. Therefore, the right approach to these issues is to facilitate
education for poor people by providing cost-effective and better-targeted teaching programs. Once the
problem of education for the poor is solved, the rates of unemployment and poverty will be reduced
significantly. It is never easy to deal with either education or poverty, but with the right approach we
will eventually succeed.
4. Giang Trinh
“Employment Projections.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor, 2013. Web.
Oct 19. 2014.
Ladd, Helen. “Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence.” Working Papers Series. SAN11-01.
Sanford School of Public Policy, 2011. PDF file.
Payne, Ruby K. A Framework for Understanding Poverty. 4th ed. Highlands: Aha! Process, 2005. Print.
Tarabini, Aina, and Judith Jacovkis. "The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: An Analysis of a
Hegemonic Link between Education and Poverty." International Journal of Educational
Development 32.4 (2012): 507-16. PDF file.
Sherman, Amy. Marco Rubio Says nearly One in Five Floridians Live in Poverty. Times Publishing
Company, 2014. Web. Oct 19. 2014.
"State Fact Sheets: Florida." Economic Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture, 2012.
Web. Oct 19. 2014.