China: 250,000 Tibetans relocated to new homes in anti-poverty fight

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

250,000 Tibetans relocated to new homes in anti-poverty fight

Xinhua

Nearly 250,000 people in Tibet have moved into 910 new settlements as part of poverty alleviation efforts by August, according to the region’s poverty-relief headquarters.

China has planned to invest 19.78 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) in a relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken citizens in the southwestern autonomous region of Tibet.

By the end of August, 93.6 percent of the investment fund had been used and 56,000 houses had been completed.

Tibet seeks to lift 266,000 residents out of poverty by relocating them from harsh living conditions and ecologically fragile areas, of whom 3,359 from 939 families originally lived at an altitude of over 4,800 meters.

Tibet has been using relocation as a means of poverty reduction. By offering job opportunities in industrial parks and cities, the relocated residents are ensured ways to make a better living.

Brazil: Government again makes fun of the people’s poverty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S NEWS AGENCY 247)

 

Government again makes fun of people: people may be unemployed, but have something to eat

Minister Osmar Terra repeated Bolsonaro’s speech and defended that “people may be unemployed but have something to eat”, omitting data on the return of poverty that plagues the country after the 2016 coup, intensified by the current government.

(Photo: PR | Reuters)

247 – Citizenship Minister Osmar Terra repeated on Thursday (22) Bolsonaro’s speech that “people may be unemployed but have something to eat “. 

“The poverty reduction speech, which is insistent in the left speech, has no factual evidence, nor the speech that hunger has returned in the Bolsonaro government. People may be unemployed, in a difficult situation, but have something to eat,” said the minister, in a statement to the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. 

However, some facts were omitted in Terra’s speech. In the period in which former President Lula was at the head of the country – eight years ending December 2010 – there was a 50.64% drop in poverty in the country. 

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2013 Brazil managed to reduce extreme poverty – ranked by the number of people living on less than $ 1 a day – by 75% between 2001 and 2012. . 

The current scenario is devastating. In just one year, Brazil had almost 2 million more people living in poverty. Extreme poverty has also grown at a similar level. This is what the Synthesis of Social Indicators (SIS) shows, released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

(A Philosophy Poem)—-A Poor Man’s Plea

(A Poor Man’s Plea)

 

Why do You stay so long from me my Lord

Why have You hidden Your Face from mine

Those with power persecute Your Children

The wicked in ignorance do beat their chest

They boast about the blood of the working poor

 

The poor rise early to worship and praise The Lord

The Lord is always in the thoughts of the wise

From the pride of wealth many will die two deaths

For the love of power they do puff at Your righteous

An Evil Leaders mouth is always full of knives and lies

 

Lord what am I that You would be mindful of me

A righteous man is known by his faith and his works

The Prideful boast that they have no need of You

A truly wise man will always bow his heart to prayer

For the ignorant with their ego’s will reside in Hell’s Fire

 

( I got the idea for this peace from the Biblical Book of Psalms, 

Chapters 8 & 10.)

 

In Yemen, Lavish Meals for Few, Starvation for Many

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

In Yemen, Lavish Meals for Few, Starvation for Many and a Dilemma for Reporters

A woman in the poor mountain village of Al Juberia, Yemen.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
Image
A woman in the poor mountain village of Al Juberia, Yemen. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

SANA, Yemen — At a restaurant in the Yemeni capital, Sana, a waiter brought bowls of slow-cooked lamb served with mounds of rice. For dessert there was kunafa, the classic Arab dish of golden brown pastry filled with cheese.

An hour later I was back at work, in a hushed hospital ward filled with malnourished children with skeletal faces, hanging between life and death for want of money and a good meal.

If that juxtaposition strikes you as jarring, even distasteful, it felt that way to me, too.

Crisis zones are often places of stark contrast, but in Yemen the gulf is particularly uncomfortable. The problem isn’t a lack of food; it’s that few people can afford to buy what food is available.

Years of blockades, bombs and soaring inflation have crushed the economy. A crushed state means there is no safety net.

As a result, beggars congregate outside supermarkets filled with goods; markets are filled with produce in towns where the hungry eat boiled leaves; and restaurants selling rich food are a few hundred yards from hunger wards filled with desperation, pain and death.

For a reporter, that brings a dilemma. Journalists travel with bundles of hard currency, usually dollars, to pay for hotels, transport and translation. A small fraction of that cash might go a long way for a starving family. Should I pause, put down my notebook and offer to help?

It’s a question some readers asked after we published a recent article on Yemen’s looming famine.

Many were touched by a powerful photograph by Tyler Hicks of Amal Hussain, an emaciated 7-year-old girl whose haunting stare brought the war’s human cost into shocking focus.

And many were devastated to learn that, soon after we left, Amal’s mother brought her back to the shabby refugee camp they call home, where she died a few days later.

Amal Hussain, who died at age 7 from malnutrition soon after this photograph was taken.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
Image
Amal Hussain, who died at age 7 from malnutrition soon after this photograph was taken.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Some, in their anguish, turned the focus back on us.

Why didn’t we do something to save Amal’s life, they wanted to know. Did we just take the photo, conduct the interview and move on? Couldn’t we have somehow ensured that her family would get help?

“You can take the picture AND provide assistance,” one woman said on Twitter. “One doesn’t rule out the other.”

The questions resonated. Reporters are trained to bear witness; aid workers and doctors have the job of helping people.

Donating money, or other forms of assistance, can be fraught with ethical, moral and practical complications. Is it fair to single out one person or family for help? What if they embellish their story for the next foreigner who comes along, thinking they could get more money?

Plus, we have a job to do.

Doctors show us around, and sometimes we end up acting like them — examining stick-like limbs and flaccid skin with clinical detachment; tabulating figures about weight and age; listening as families recount their tragedies with amazing calm. The prospect of death is discussed. We nod sagely, make a note, move on.

But while we may try to mimic a stone, we are not stones, and every day in Yemen someone told me something that made a lump rise in my throat.

COMMENT OF THE MOMENT

Sandra commented November 30

Sandra
Times Pick

Let’s cut to the chase and get the U.N. and it’s agencies in there. Just do it. The USA should be spear heading the effort. War between armies is one thing. War on starving people is quite another….no grey area! NONE!

SEE MORE

Usually it was a mundane detail, like the lack of a few dollars to take a dying child to the hospital. Yemen, you realize, is a country where people are dying for lack of a taxi fare.

An injured Yemeni fighter with the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is battling Iran-allied Houthis for control of Yemen at a field hospital in Durayhimi.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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An injured Yemeni fighter with the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is battling Iran-allied Houthis for control of Yemen at a field hospital in Durayhimi.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Yemenis have to navigate such terrain, too.

While some are dying, others are getting on with living. One night we returned to our hotel in Hajjah, a town ringed by rocky ridges in a province that has been pummeled by Saudi airstrikes. Lying in bed, I was startled by a loud bang then a burst of light that filled the sky — not a bomb, but fireworks.

Since the start of the war, the rate of marriage in Yemen has gone up. And so, in this town where malnourished infants were perishing at the city hospital, others were dancing and celebrating through the night.

But the surge in weddings, it turned out, was a survival mechanism.

Across the social spectrum, Yemenis are sliding down the poverty ladder. Where once a mother bought a sack of rice to feed her family, now she can afford only a small bag. The hand of a daughter in marriage brings a bride price, and so weddings can be a source of income for stretched families.

Disturbingly, many of the brides are children. According to Unicef, two-thirds of Yemeni girls are married before the age of 18, up from 50 percent before the war.

As we crossed Yemen — from the battle-scarred port of Hudaydah to the Houthi-held mountains — on a bumpy 900-mile journey, we saw scenes of heartbreaking suffering that unfolded against a backdrop of spectacular mountains, and customs that stubbornly endure despite everything.

Every day, town centers bustled with men buying khat, the narcotic leaf beloved by Yemenis. The khat bazaars are a social event. Men, some with guns over their shoulders, gather to trade news, meet friends and prepare for the afternoon chew.

Women in black cloaks flitted between them; in one place, a loud argument erupted into fisticuffs. Even as starvation bites, some are reluctant to cut back on their habit.

In one health clinic, Ibrahim Junaid, a worried father standing over his ailing 5-month-old son, was chewing a lump of khat that left a green stain on his teeth and lips.

Mr. Junaid was 60; his wife, 25, stood silently by his side. The nurses wrapped the boy in a gold foil blanket to keep him warm.

Ibrahim Ali Mohammed Junaid, 60, and his wife Zahra Ali Ahmed, 25, taking their son, Ahmed Ibrahim al Junaid, 5 months old, to a clinic to treat his malnutrition.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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Ibrahim Ali Mohammed Junaid, 60, and his wife Zahra Ali Ahmed, 25, taking their son, Ahmed Ibrahim al Junaid, 5 months old, to a clinic to treat his malnutrition.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Mr. Junaid regretted that his son hadn’t enough to eat, adding that he had a lot of mouths to feed; he had married twice, and fathered 13 children.

The value of practices like chewing khat may be hard to understand in such turbulent times. But for men like Mr. Junaid, it is an integral part of their day. And it is a mark of the resilience of an ancient society, one of the oldest civilizations of the Middle East.

“People say Yemen is in a state of chaos, but it’s not,” said Thierry Durand, an aid worker who has worked in Yemen since the 1980s, and now runs a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Mocha. “There is still structure.”

“You can’t put it in three lines in your paper or describe it in three minutes on TV,” he continued. “This country is structured by family, tribe, traditions — and despite everything, those structures are still there, and they are strong.”

Still, Yemeni society is being ravaged by war. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, aided by American bombs, have killed thousands of civilians, and displaced many more. But for most Yemenis, war strikes their lives in quieter, more insidious ways.

Bombs blow up bridges or factories, killing jobs, causing the currency to crumble and prices to soar, and forcing families to abstain from meat, then vegetables. Soon, they are dependent on international food aid or, in the worst cases, resort to meals of boiled leaves.

A bridge in Bani Hassan was damaged by a Saudi airstrike.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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A bridge in Bani Hassan was damaged by a Saudi airstrike.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Small but vital things, like a cab fare, become unattainable.

As we drove away from the small hospital in Aslam, where Amal Hussain was being treated, we passed a young couple hitching a ride on the side of the road. They were holding a small infant. We stopped and offered them a ride.

They squeezed into the passenger seat — the father, Khalil Hadi, enveloped by the black cloak of his wife, Hanna, who held their fragile 9-month-old son, Wejdan, who had just been released from the malnutrition ward.

Theirs was a typical story. Their home near the Saudi border had been bombed, so they rented a room in a house near Aslam. Mr. Hadi tried to earn money driving a motorbike taxi, and by foraging for wood to sell at the market.

But it wasn’t enough, and when he tried to go home, the Houthi soldiers told him the area was a military zone. Their diet was reduced to bread, tea and halas, the vine that grew locally. His wife was four months pregnant with their second child.

Mr. Hadi wasn’t looking for pity; many people were in similar trouble, he said. “I’d do anything to make some money,” he said. “The situation is so hard.”

At a junction in the road, the couple stepped out, offered thanks and began to walk away. Fumbling in my pocket, I called them back.

I pulled out a wad of Yemeni notes — about $15 worth — and pressed it into his hand. It seemed so futile, in the greater scheme of things. What could it buy them? A few days respite, if even that?

Mr. Hadi accepted the money with a gracious smile. As we drove off I saw the couple amble down a dusty road, toward their shelter, their ailing son held tight.

Khalil Hadi and his pregnant wife, Itanna Hassan Massani, carrying their 9-month-old son, Wejdan, from a clinic in Aslam.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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Khalil Hadi and his pregnant wife, Itanna Hassan Massani, carrying their 9-month-old son, Wejdan, from a clinic in Aslam.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Follow Declan Walsh on Twitter:@declanwalsh

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Contrast in Crushed State Presents Journalists With Ethical Dilemma. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Theology Poem: Their Is Only One Thing We Own

Their Is Only One Thing We Own

 

We bought us a Hector of land about 3 yrs ago

It even had a three bedroom planted upon its face

We’re even blessed with two old sleds, but they ride

Could we all be more alive if we just owned more toys

Own the Business, but, do we really ever own the fame

 

There are many generations of those whom have owned this land

How many striped backs have worked this very place that I stand

Grass to timber, back to grass, then back to trees, again and again

Did a Red Man before me own it, if so, which people were they of

Did a Cave Man or maybe a Monkey or even a Chimp lay claim to it

 

Do the Trees think they own the Stars as well as the Ground below

The Skies hold the Rain but are the Skies beholding to the night breeze

How is it that I think to my self, yes I do own this, and I also own that

The Air owns the Man, the Man has never been in control of his Air

The Only Thing that We Own is Our Own Name, waiting in Line Up There

When The Poor Serve No Need We Will Be Exterminated

When The Poor Serve No Need We Will Be Exterminated

 

Earlier I posted an article that came from the Government of China, the article was in several of their news outlets, the article stated that by the year 2027 in China’s Financial district alone that AI will cause the loss of 2.3 million jobs. Remember that their current President for life Mr. Xi Jinping is a devout follower of Chairman Mao. When Chairman Mao was in charge in China their country’s population was about one billion people and his policies were to let about half of the Nation starve to death. One of the main reason he gave was the Central Government’s inability to not only be able to control them but also their inability to feed them. The population of the United States and of Russia combined today is about 470 million people, Mao was speaking of letting 500 million of his own people starve to death. There are many reasons that China went to their ‘one child’ policies for several decades, these were two of their top reasons.

 

There are those in China and elsewhere in the world who will argue that these things could not happen today because we are now much more civilized and to this I have to say, O really. The United States is without a doubt a ‘surveillance State’ today, if you think otherwise you are being quite naive. There are good things about living in constant surveillance though, I have no doubt that the FBI, CIA, and the NSA have stopped quite a few attacks upon the American people because of their secretive work. Yet how much freedom do the people give up for the sake of being safer? The more a government knows, the more easily they can then totally control the lives of the people. When it comes to governing a Nation the main building block of their power is their ability to control the people. Lose control on the streets, they lose their grip on their power.

 

Now let’s get back to financials within a government. Unless you are oblivious to reality you should know that the tail that wags the dog, is money. Back in the mid 1970’s I worked in a Chrysler Assembly Plant in norther Illinois for just a couple of weeks (I couldn’t stand the thought of working on an assembly line putting cushions in-car seats for at least 37 years) so I quit. What I did notice was how many people worked on the different ‘lines’. As the cars went down the assembly line you had many people doing manual labor like spot welding and putting windshields into the car frames. Go there now, see how many jobs are still there and how many are being done by automation, the job loss is staggering. Even think of stores like Wal-Mart who are getting rid of their cashiers in favor of automation and self-checkouts. Now think about self driving cars, trucks and even trains. Even companies like Uber are killing the Taxi industry. What do all of these things have in common folks? Companies are trying to get rid of human employees and the reason is simple, more profits for the top end persons in these companies.

 

If you are old enough (I am 62) do you remember when we used to hear how technologies were going to allow worker to only have to work 4 days a week because with technologies we could get 5 days work done in 4 days? Some people were foolish enough to think that their employer was going to pay you for 5 days work even though you only worked 4 days. Reality was that the employees still worked 5 days a week but the companies demanded 6 or 7 days of finished product in the 5 days, for no more pay. Then of course the companies could ‘let go’ some of their workforce because they didn’t need them anymore. The employment issue has just grown from there as more and more computers and machines have taken over jobs that humans used to do.

 

I have spoken of the world Stock Markets before, how I believe that they are nothing but a Ponzi scheme and a curse to the working class, the working poor who labor in these corporations who are on these ‘Markets.’ Some will argue that throughout the years that they have been buying and selling stocks and bonds that they have been able to amass a ‘nice little retirement fund’, yet in reality all of a persons profits that they have amassed over the past thirty years can easily be wiped out in one or two hours on this same ‘Market scheme.’ Little people like us working class folks at best get the crumbs that fall off of the ‘Boss Mans’ plate. We are no more than dogs licking their floor and their shoes. What takes you or I 30 years to amass the ‘connected’ make in one 5 minute transaction.

 

When there are lets say 4 billion working age poor people (ages 10-75) but there are only 2 billion actual jobs that need a humans hands to do, what will happen to the other 2 billion people, and all of their families, all of the children? The Republicans in the U.S Congress often refer to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Aid For Dependent Children, unemployment checks, VA Disability checks and even the VA itself as “entitlements” as “Welfare”, things that must be “defunded”, “stopped.” Why is this? The answer is simple, it takes away from the money that flows to the top end of the financial class. The Republicans say that they are the “Christian right” yet their actions are as anti-Christian as you can get in American politics. Do not get me wrong, I am no fan of the Democratic Party either with their platform of murdering babies (pro-abortion). Both ‘Parties’ are pure evil, they will both do everything that they can to make sure that the American people never get to have a viable 3rd or 4th political party and the reason is simple, that would take away from their power and they aren’t about to let that happen.

 

When there is not enough jobs for the poor people to do, not even slave labor jobs, who is going to house and feed these people if they can’t get an income? Is the top 1% going to just ‘give’ these people money from their bank accounts? When there is 7 billion people on the planet but only enough food or clean drinking water for 6 billion, who is going to get that food and clean water, the poorest of the poor people? Really? If you really think so, how naive you are my friend! In this new world that is on our doorstep, indeed kicking down our doors right now, you are either the lead dog, or you are daily looking up the lead dogs ass, drinking their piss for water and licking up their shit for food. In this regard, for the poor, this new world that we are all hurtling into, thousands, then millions, then billions of people will be fighting for a position behind these lead dogs just so they can stay alive. Those who refuse will not be fed and housed, we will be exterminated!

 

Only Believers Of Islam Can Stop Islamic Terrorism: Nothing Else Can

TODAY THE SOUL CRIES 

(FIRST PUBLISHED ON January 27th, 2018)

The news today out of Kabul Afghanistan is both sad and sickening. The Islamic murder group who calls themselves the Taliban had one of their members drive an ambulance into a highly populated facility that was loaded with explosives and blew himself up. The saddest part is that this child of Satan has killed at least 95 innocent people along with himself. Just in this past week in Afghanistan there was an attack on a hotel that left 22 people dead, this attack was claimed by another Islamic murder group that call themselves ISIS. There was even an attack on an NGO group called Save The Children, I am not sure of the death toll in that attack nor which Demonic group took ‘credit’ for it.

 

According to the CIA Fact Book the U.S. government has spent over 2 Trillion American tax payer dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, my question is, for what? Have the American soldiers along with other Allied soldiers killed thousands of Taliban fighters plus some from other groups fighters, yes. Have many hundreds of ‘Western’ soldiers been killed and wounded, yes. Have at least a few thousand innocent civilians been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, yes. Yet for many years, including right up till now, the government of Afghanistan and the U.S. Government has been trying to have talks with the Taliban to create a ‘shared government’. A government where leaders of the Taliban will join with the civilian Government to mesh into one and form as one. The U.S. Government has been trying to broker this deal for at least ten years now, folks, the whole concept is insane. These attempts are no more than an attempt at ‘saving face’ for the U.S. Government via giving them a ‘way out’ of this quagmire. The Taliban, if they really had an interest in ‘sharing’ governance of Afghanistan they could have done this years ago. The current Leaders of the Civilian government know very well that if the Taliban is welcomed in they will quickly turn on the civilians Legislators and murder them all. Another question I have to bring up is about that 2 trillion dollars, where did it all go? Two trillion dollars could have totally and completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the U.S., so, where has all of that money gone? To me it seems that the majority has gone toward military actions, planes, tanks, bombs, soldiers and the such. I have heard reports several times that about 90% of the civilians in Afghanistan don’t even have one change of clothes, why folks? If we wanted to win the hearts of the civilians of the country we should have invested a whole lot of that money in their infrastructure, making sure they all had electricity, clean water, sanitation, a reliable food chain and jobs.

 

Whether the location is Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya or the Gaza Strip it is my belief that there is only one way that the world will ever be rid of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and that is if the believers of Islam shut it down themselves. I know it has been the case for about 1,400 years that the Islamic faith has had a lot of infighting between their two main factions, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s and that during this 1,400 years there have probably been as many or more Muslim and Persian people killed as there have been of Westerners killed. One would think that at some point this madness would stop but there appears to be no end of the innocent bloodshed being stopped. It is my belief that there is only one way that there can ever be an end to this madness and that is if the believers of Islam themselves decide that they have had enough. The ‘innocent’ family members, if they are indeed innocent must turn in their own family members and their own Iman if they are preaching hate and violence. Groups like President Abbas of the PLO and the leaders of Hamas must stop giving prize money to the families of ‘Martyr’s’ who kill other people. This theology is morally sick, the people of Islam themselves must shut it down because the Western World can not do it on their own. Until the rest of the world sees that the extreme mass majority of the Islamic believers are doing exactly this, how can the rest of the world believe that the extreme mass majority of Islamic believers are not complicit in this evil?

 

 

 

Poem: Praying For God’s Judgement

 

Lord, why is it that You stand so far from us

Lord, why do You hide Yourself from our troubles

You say that You hate the mouth of a wicked man

Yet the blood of the poor lays upon the Jailers floor

 

All Branches of government their mouth’s are full of deceit

Your ways are grievous to them, they see You as empty air

Our Leaders murder the innocent and steal all the poor have

The Rulers crouch like Lions hiding behind vain promises

These Liars, thieves and murders think You do not exist nor see

 

Lord rise up, lift up Your hand, forget not those who love You

I know that You have seen their transgressions, strike them Lord

The rich and the powerful buy the fatherless to be their slaves

The poor and the weak we commit our lives to Your Holiness

Lord break evils grip upon the Earth so no more blood they spill

 

(The idea for this piece came from the 10th Psalm)

A promising alternative to subsidized lunch receipt as a measure of student poverty

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)

 

REPORT

A promising alternative to subsidized lunch receipt as a measure of student poverty

Matthew M. Chingos

A central component of federal education law for more than 15 years is that states must report student achievement for every school both overall and for subgroups of students, including those from economically disadvantaged families. Several states are leading the way in developing and using innovative methods for identifying disadvantaged students, and other states would do well to follow them.

Until recently, low-income students have almost always been identified as those eligible for the federal free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) program.[1]But FRL eligibility is quickly becoming useless for both research and policy, as I documented in a 2016 Evidence Speaks report.

About one in five schools now offer free lunches to all of their students under a “community eligibility” provision.[2] The result is that the share of U.S. students receiving a subsidized lunch has climbed from less than 35 percent in 1990 to more than 50 percent today, even though the share of children who grow up in low-income families has not changed over this period.

This trend presents immediate challenges to states as they implement new school accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (EESA).[3] Continuing to use FRL to identify economically disadvantaged students in community eligibility schools means either saying that all students are eligible, which would violate the spirit of ESSA, or surveying families to find out who would be eligible on an individual basis, which would be costly and burdensome. Census data could be used to estimate the level of disadvantage in a school’s surrounding neighborhood, but cannot be linked to achievement data at the student level.

Fortunately, several states are leading the way in adopting new methods for identifying disadvantaged students based on their families’ participation in programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and the foster care system.

Districts have been making such linkages to “directly certify” students for FRL without them having to complete a form. States assuming the responsibility for this linkage reduces burden on districts and ensures more uniformity. Most important for ESSA purposes, it means that states including Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Washington, DC will be able to shine a light on the achievement of disadvantaged students even in schools where all students get a free lunch.[4]

Washington, DC makes for an instructive case study, as it is an urban school system where two-thirds of students attend schools where free lunch is provided to everyone. DC’s new accountability system will identify economically disadvantaged students as those who are “at-risk” by virtue of participation in SNAP or TANF or being in foster care or homeless.[5]

Shifting to this new definition dramatically increases the number of schools for which achievement gaps can be calculated (Figure 1).[6] In 2017, only 26 percent of students attended schools where the achievement of FRL students could be compared to non-FRL students, down from 40 percent two years earlier. But more than 80 percent of students attend schools where the scores of at-risk students can be compared to other students.[7]

Figure 1

School-by-school data, reported in Figure 2, show that the at-risk percentage varies dramatically among the two-thirds of schools where all students receive a free lunch, from 23 percent to 95 percent. By collecting the data underlying the at-risk designation, DC makes it possible to both measure achievement gaps within these schools and understand differences in contexts across these schools.

Figure 2

Transitioning to a new measure of economic disadvantage will entail some challenges. There is surely some cost of making data linkages across systems maintained by different agencies, and it has to be done using methods that ensure the privacy and confidentiality of student records. States may need to make upgrades to their data systems, or amend laws or regulations that restrict how data can be used.

But it is clear that FRL participation is no longer a viable option for identifying economically disadvantaged students, especially in areas with significant low-income populations. All states should follow the lead of DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Tennessee by putting in place linked data systems that enable them both to identify students who should get a free lunch—regardless of whether they fill out a form—and to shine a bright light on how much these students are learning.


The author did not receive any financial support from any firm or person for this article or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. He is currently not an officer, director, or board member of any organization with an interest in this article.

Author

Matthew M. Chingos

Former Brookings Expert

Senior Fellow, Director of Education Policy Program – Urban Institute