Friday, March 7, 2008

Leaving poverty behind

I am signed up to receive USA Today’s Campus Coverage email, which is geared to educators. While I’m not an educator, education is certainly a key component of workforce development and staying abreast of educational trends is important to me.

Recently, I ran across an article on overcoming poverty, by Oliver “Buzz” Thomas. Reverend Thomas is a minister in Tennessee and the author of a book with the tongue-in-cheek title, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job). He also is a regular contributor on various issues and recently had an opinion piece in USA Today on the “path out of poverty.”

Thomas begins his article, “In the hardscrabble world of Depression-era Alabama, my daddy said there were two pictures on his wall: Jesus and President Franklin Roosevelt. There was more behind those pictures than a wall, of course. Both men were viewed as saviors. One from sin. The other from the next worst thing — poverty.

Poverty is a monster. It saps the will and can kill the spirit. For the nearly one in six American children who grow up in it, poverty is also a dream snatcher, oftentimes snatching the dream of a better life before it can rise above the cracked plaster ceiling.”

Thomas gets it. Unlike many policymakers, both state and national, Thomas understands that educational attainment, tied to skills, and oriented towards the economy of the 21st (not the 20th, or even, the 19th) century, is the best way out of poverty. That was the premise of welfare reform in the mid-90s, but a war and tax cuts seems to have derailed the process. I’m concerned that gains from the economic prosperity of the past decade will be undone, with the continued woeful funding coming from the federal government, specific to the Workforce Investment Act.
If we are in fact in a recession, state revenues will continue to trend lower, necessitating more cuts. Can Maine’s future economic viability weather another significant cut to education, on top of the current proposed cuts? I hold out hope that we don’t mortgage our future opportunities on the altar of political expediency.

You can read Thomas’ entire article here.

I also recommend this article. It’s from 2004, but I think it speaks well to the tension between advocates for increased skills and those that say we need better jobs, not an entire market of service-sector jobs.


g2bn2wn said...

And so the gap widens...on the heels of the announcement of the wealthiest people in the world. Oil companies will likely again see record profits. Politicians are raising millions and millions of dollars at record paces and the housing slump continues to impact more and more people. When and where will it end. With the increase in oil prices everything is costing more. I thought I got a raise this year but come to find out it is being sucked up by heating oil costs and gasoline. This has also impacted my grocery bill as well as other utilities. It is sad to think that the gov't could raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour and still not bring people into the middle class. Come to think of it, middle class thse says isn't so hot either.

bizdirector said...

You bring up some valid points in your comment.

The income gap you speak of does not bode well for the state (or nation) on many levels.