Education is one key to lifting Buffalo’s children out of poverty - The Buffalo News

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Education is one key to lifting Buffalo’s children out of poverty

Perhaps the saddest result of poverty is how it affects children, a situation spotlighted in the recent News article showing that more than half of Buffalo’s children live in poverty.

It is disturbing to think that many of these children face a lifelong struggle just to get by.

There is no single solution to poverty. But there are paths that can break the cycle of poverty. These include Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, Say Yes to Education and the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center, which will train the unemployed and underemployed in skills geared toward jobs at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

These and other resources, combined with overall economic growth that will generate jobs at the Medical Campus, RiverBend and IBM and in hospitality, offer a ray of hope.

But it’s not hard to understand the skepticism being voiced in Buffalo’s most downtrodden neighborhoods. Buffalo’s poverty rate is more than twice the national rate of 14.5 percent.

The numbers for children are stark. Some 29,726 of the city’s 58,722 children under 18 live in poverty, The News reported, citing a Census Bureau estimate.

Poverty is distracting. Especially so when the way out of poverty involves getting a good education. That’s hard to do when you’re hungry.

Educators often cite one of the key reasons students attend school: free lunches. And sometimes breakfast, for which too many children qualify under federal poverty guidelines.

The appetite of these children for education needs to be equally strong. That is where the adults running the system come in. From the School Board to district administrators and unions, the goal of providing a sound education must be the only priority.

Census figures from 2013 show that the poverty rate for adults who did not graduate from high school was 43.2 percent in 2013. The rate dipped to 25.2 percent for high school graduates and 10.5 percent for those with a college degree.

Education is the way to break the cycle of poverty and put future generations on the right path.

But getting there can seem nearly impossible for a single mother. Some are trying, including Irene Oquendo, whose struggle was featured in The News last week.

Oquendo earned $17,000 in 2013, far below the poverty line for a family of four. She has three sons, ages 15, 9 and 5. She’s 31. Although she is trying to pull her family out of poverty by working a couple of jobs and attending Erie Community College, it is hard to make ends meet.

Wraparound services are critical to helping her succeed, and are provided by the United Way, Catholic Charities and many other agencies. Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, for example, offers health and social services, sending food home with the neediest students.

Buffalo’s future is brighter than it has been in decades. The question is how to include everyone in that future. There are no silver bullets to solving poverty. Connecting families to services and improving the school system is a good place to start.

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