We are nearing the 55th anniversary of that day in January 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional War on Poverty.” According to historians, it marked a time when 20% of Americans were considered poor. The Johnson Administration believed that poverty was a “societal” failing that needed to be corrected.
According to Aaron Cooley, who wrote an article on “War on Poverty,” President Johnson “encountered resistance to the War on Poverty from all quarters: from the South on issues of race. From Conservatives and Liberals.” The argument in Washington was focused on how much funding, if any funding at all, should be allocated to helping the poor.
In 1964, estimates of poverty in the U.S. was approximately 20%. According to Welfare Info (welfareinfo.org), our poverty rate in San Antonio today is 17.3%. Poverty rates amongst ethnicities such as African Americans is 24.1%, Hispanics 21.5%, and White 10.7%. The difference between 1964 and 2019 in terms of poverty rates has essentially stood still.
Today the fight against poverty is still raging and in San Antonio, we (as a community) are taking the fight to eliminating poverty through the power of higher education and workforce development, directly into our communities in order to truly break the cycle of poverty.
According to a report run in the Rivard Report (July 31, 2019), San Antonio’s worst poverty is concentrated in 4 zip codes, 2 of which are on the Eastside of San Antonio and within my Alamo College district. I do not take the seriousness of that insight lightly. We need to end generational poverty in areas of the Eastside that have been historically ignored.
I have served as an elected representative focused on educational governance for over ten years now, and I have leveraged that experience to keep focused on promoting education as the key to building stronger futures. What I have found is that the social emotional well-being of a student is universally critical in their self-confidence, and in their belief for a better future. If success is not nurtured, our fight to end poverty will be that much harder to win.
Systemically, issues surrounding keeping experienced teachers in the classrooms and inequities in resources have contributed to the divide. Furthermore, survival to put food on the table means more that pursuing higher education. These factors make the road harder, but not impossible to change.
With the Alamo Promise beginning next Fall Semester, free – tuition is coming, and financial barriers to attending college will greatly diminish barriers and access. However, tuition-free does not automatically equate to success. A student will need to work hard and have a belief that their hard work will breed success.
I have been surprised that some students in our community are not persuaded to attend college next year, even though it is tuition free. Such sentiments reveal deep seeded barriers and realities that access is not going to break the cycle of poverty alone.
As a district, and as a community, WE NEED TO UNITE in order to fight poverty and ensure every child in Alamo Colleges district 2 has a pathway lit by hope. How can we come together to ensure student success you may ask? In a short answer, by working to find solutions and collaborating.
I would like to invite you to join me Community Discussion at the Carver Library, 3350 E. Commerce on December 6th from 5pm – 6pm to discuss education, collaboration, and the future of Eastside.