“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.’s “‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 1963
Fifty-five years after Martin Luther King Jr. wrote these words, too many low-income children, many of whom are of color, do not have an equal opportunity to get a good education. When students don’t get this opportunity, we all suffer from the consequences, which include high rates of crime, unemployment and incarceration. Worst of all, the children themselves are denied the chance to develop their talents and live up to their promise.
Recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress scores show more than half of American students are not proficient in reading, writing and math, and have made little to no progress since 2011. Even as rising high school graduation rates are touted, the Pell Institute reports only 12 percent of students in the lowest income quartile earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24.
Furthermore, 78 percent of children from low-income families can’t read by fourth grade, putting them at increased risk of struggling throughout school and eventually dropping out. Too often, family income and wealth are tough dividers, determining who gets a good education and who does not.
It’s one of the reasons that 20 years ago two successful businessmen, John Walton and Teddy Forstmann, joined forces and founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF). At the time, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, called the idea “a real continuation of the work that my father began.” Continue Reading →