A new report ("A New Majority") by the Southern Education Foundation found that 66 percent of children in Louisiana public schools come from low-income households. The state ranks below Mississippi (71 percent) and New Mexico (68 percent). The south accounts for more than half of all low-income students in the country. For the first time in decades, the report states, 17 states' public schools now serve a new majority of low-income household students in preschool through 12th grade.
A majority of public school children in 17 states, one-third of the 50 states across the nation, were low income students — eligible for free or reduced lunches — in the school year that ended in 2011. Thirteen of the 17 states were in the South, and the remaining four were in the West. Since 2005, half or more of the South’s children in public schools have been from low income households. During the last two school years, 2010 and 2011, for the first time in modern history, the West has had a majority low income students attending P-12 public schools.
That average of 66 percent accounts for low-income students in rural areas (129,674, or 63 percent), suburbs (93,933, or 59 percent), and cities (70 percent). In Mississippi and Louisiana, at least nine out of every 10 school districts had a majority of low-income students. Eighty-two percent of school districts in Louisiana have a majority student body that qualifies for free lunch, or free/reduced-price lunch (90 percent), the meal program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Washington Post notes that in 2011, nearly half of the country's 50 million public-school students qualified for free or reduced-price meals.