Statement of Support for the Fight for $15 National Day of Action

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Supports
the Fight for $15 National Day of Action on November 10

Communities across the U.S. are facing an education crisis. In under-resourced and struggling school districts across the country, too many students continue to fall below national benchmarks on reading and math and on school attendance, high school graduation and college admission rates. This is especially true of students of color, and those attending schools in low-income communities.

The U.S. is also facing a poverty crisis, with most recent Census data showing that nearly 15% of Americans and over 21% of children live in poverty—a figure that has remained fairly constant since the Great Recession began in 2008.

More than half of all students in the nation’s public schools are considered low income.

The education crisis and the poverty crisis are directly related. In fact, data show that family income is, and has been for some time, the most significant predictor of academic success among students in the U.S.  

And the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students is growing.

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and the 7 million parents, students, educators and community members who we represent, continue to fight for the schools our children deserve.  We know that the current “drill and kill” testing regime, school closures, privatization, the criminalization of students of color, and the unconscionable lack of resources for schools in poor communities in particular, create and exacerbate achievement gaps between rich and poor. We will not give up until all schools provide all children the opportunity to succeed – every child should have access to things like libraries, advanced classes, art and sports. But we also know that one way to have a significant positive impact on low-income students’ academic achievement is to help lift families out of poverty. 

We therefore support the call for a minimum $15 wage and the right to join a union for all workers.  We applaud and join with the Fight for $15 on November 10th to demand better for our workers, our communities and our young people.

Since the late 1970s, middle and low-income families have seen their wages stagnate, despite the fact that the cost of food, housing and health care have risen year after year. If the minimum wage had kept up with worker productivity, it would now be $18.67 an hour--a far cry from the current $7.25 federal minimum wage. Two million middle and high-wage jobs have been lost since 2008. They were replaced by low-wage jobs that leave millions of families without enough income to make ends meet.  

Millions of children from those families walk in to our schools each day. 

When students live in poverty, they are much more likely to face significant obstacles to classroom learning than their middle and upper income counterparts. These obstacles directly impact educational outcomes:

Health: Children who are born into poverty or experience poverty in early childhood have a greater chance of experiencing health conditions that impact their ability to learn or attend school regularly. Whether it’s high rates of asthma, undiagnosed ear infections or vision problems, low-income children miss more days of school due to health issues than more affluent children.

Hunger: Low-income children are much more likely to experience food insecurity and hunger than higher income children. Hunger impacts a child’s ability to pay attention in the classroom. Many public schools still do not provide free or reduced cost meals to students eligible to receive them, even though federal funding is available for those meals.

Housing Instability: Poor families move more often than those living above the poverty line, sometimes up to twice as often. For low-income families, moving is generally not a sign of upward mobility, but rather an unplanned event due to difficulties paying rent or mortgage or other financial constraints.  Frequent relocation interrupts academic progress for these students.

Parental engagement in school: Parental involvement in children’s schooling has been shown to relate positively with academic progress. However, low-income parents often face barriers to monitoring their children’s school progress or participate in important meetings due to conditions associated with low-wage work such as erratic work schedules and long or inflexible work hours.

Children from low-income households face a broad range of obstacles to classroom learning, which, taken together, place them at a significant disadvantage compared to higher income students.

The majority of America’s public school students come from households considered poor or low-income.  We must fight for economic justice, as well as educational justice.

Raising wages for parents is among the most effective ways to improve student achievement:

A 2004 study established the positive effect of even modest increases in family income on student test scores.
In another study, children of families receiving earnings supplements designed to raise their incomes above the poverty level, plus subsidized health insurance and child-care, improved their reading scores more than students who did not. 
A similar study of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) found that for every $1000 increase in family annual income over two to five years, student academic performance, including test scores, improves.

These studies showing the direct positive effects of raising household income—even by small amounts—on student achievement make it plain that reducing poverty through stable, living wage jobs for all working families would also help improve educational outcomes.

Since 2013, the Fight for $15 has grown from a few hundred fast food workers in Chicago and New York to a nationwide movement demanding a living wage for low wage workers, in sectors ranging from fast food, retail stores and gas stations to home health care and construction. What these workers have in common--besides earning wages that make it impossible to support a family without relying on public assistance—is that they all work for employers who can easily afford to pay their workers a living wage.

In addition to raising local economies out of poverty, a $15 minimum wage and the right to join a union would also raise neighborhood schools out of poverty, dramatically improving educational outcomes.

Across the country, teachers and supporters of public schools are vocally supporting the Fight for $15, in recognition of the fact that raising wages for families raises academic performance for students.  Today, the members of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools join that fight. 

Keron Blair, Director
Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools