Rhode Island Kids Count, a non-profit advocacy organization, released its 2007 Factbook Monday; and it suggests that many Rhode Island children living in poverty are
falling through the cracks of our society. Almost half of low-income Rhode Island children, nearly 23,000, live in families earning less than $8,000 per year. The report proposes that education is the key to escaping poverty, but that too many
children living in the urban core communities of Rhode Island are failing the basic skills of education and leaving school before graduation from high school.
The 2007 Factbook offers a bleak assessment for children living in poverty in Rhode Island. The Kids Count report comes on the heels of last week's State of Rhode Island Catholic Schools report issued by the Catholic School Office of the Diocese of Providence. The school report points to a number of positive factors, including a graduation rate of 99.5% in Catholic elementary and secondary schools. It noted that Rhode Island Catholic Schools save cities and towns nearly $200 million annually, and thereby help to provide much-needed resources to public schools across the state. Many of our Catholic schools in the urban core communities continue to
struggle to finance education and provide affordable tuitions for Rhode Island's working poor.
The Diocese of Providence grants millions of dollars worth of scholarships and financial aid to low-income students each year in an ongoing attempt to keep our Catholic schools open and available to students of every socio-economic class. Last year's passage of the Tuition Scholarship Tax Credit by Governor Don Carcieri and the General Assembly provides the beginnings of a new avenue of increasing tuition assistance for low-income students who attend non-public schools. There are more than 90,000 low-income students who meet the eligibility requirements for such assistance, yet the Tuition Scholarship Tax Credit has been capped at $1 million.
Clearly the Kids Count report's staggering statistics about children living in poverty in Rhode Island should cause great alarm in our state. Its suggestion that education is the way out of poverty is completely correct. A quality Catholic
education is one avenue that provides the way out of the cycle of poverty for any student eager to learn.
However, increasingly this opportunity for such an education provided by excellent Catholic schools is under great financial strain. The Tuition Scholarship Tax Credit program is a great beginning in opening the avenue to more low-income children, but it is clear that more needs to be done.
We thank Governor Carcieri and the leaders of the General Assembly, Speaker Murphy and President Montalbano, for their continued efforts in supporting the program; but we remind them it is only a small beginning and much more is needed.
The many children living in poverty in Rhode Island deserve more.
(This editorial originally appeared in The Providence Journal)