Commentary: Legislation helps fight poverty


Commentary: Legislation helps fight poverty
June 14
02:30 2018

By Ed Hanes

Today [Wednesday, June 6], thousands of low-income students across the state came one step closer to breaking from the cycle of poverty through true educational opportunity. Legislation passed in the House today ensures that all students who score 5 on the end of grade tests in grades 3-8 will automatically be granted access to advanced math courses.

Today, with my other primary sponsor Rep. Chris Malone and our cosponsors on the original HB 1048, we have passed what is perhaps the single most important piece of education policy for low-income children during my six years in the General Assembly.

I would like to further thank the leadership of the House Education K-12 committee, who worked with us to PCS this bill with Rep. Pat Hurley’s important cursive writing legislation, HB 986. That legislation will now be the home for what we hope will be only the beginning to opening true educational rigor and opportunity for ALL of North Carolina’s children, no matter their financial standing

Last year, the News & Observer published a three-part exposé in which they found that thousands of high-potential, low-income students are being excluded from advanced math courses beginning in elementary school. The analysis shows that only one of every two low-income third-graders who scored above grade-level in 2010 was admitted in an advanced math course the following year, compared to three of four affluent students with the same scores. Once again, this shows that low-income, academically successful math students are being “counted out” when it comes to advanced math courses, dramatically reducing their likelihood for post-secondary success.

Until now, the poorest students in our state … the most vulnerable to the ravages of poverty … were routinely and intentionally prevented from gaining access to rigorous advanced math classes. Their tickets to better academic perpetration … their path from poverty were instead given to lower scoring students from better financial conditions. Sometimes even high scoring students from fine financial conditions were being left out of these advanced math classes.

Over the years, these decisions were made by educational specialists who ultimately decided who got a ticket to economic freedom, and who got left in what seems to be a never-ending cycle of poverty.  Often times those decisions were made with a subjective laziness of social capital: The students weren’t judged to be “creative enough” … they weren’t a “high enough achiever in the classroom” … they didn’t have the appropriate “support at home” … or most troubling to Representative Malone and I … the students “lacked other observable behaviors that demonstrated real aptitude in math.”

It is our moral imperative to give these children the opportunity to break out of their generational cycle of poverty. By passing this legislation and giving these low-income students the opportunity to postsecondary studies, we are providing them the means to possess the intellectual capital … the social capital … and the culture capital necessary to change their impoverished condition.

Not only is this a moral imperative, it is also a constitutional imperative … North Carolina’s constitution promises a sound, basic education for every student in our state. Withholding access for qualified students does not seem to fulfill that threshold.

The roots of inequality run deep. Today we are beginning the attack on that root … that soft bigotry of low expectations. This problem is bigger than any of us individually but it is NOT bigger than a UNITED NC General Assembly.


N.C. Rep. Edward Hanes Jr. is a Democrat who represents District 72 in Forsyth County.

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