I recently watched Al Sharpton on the Stephen Colbert show talk about how education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. He discussed his collaboration with Newt Gingrich to promote education reforms. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? That’s an interesting coupling.
And I thought of all the interesting volunteers who come together at School on Wheels to tutor a homeless child. Why do they do this? For some it’s because they recognize the vulnerability and difficulty of being a homeless student. For others, it’s the opportunity to give back to those they consider less fortunate. For most, however, it’s the understanding that education is the one sure path out of poverty and the cycle of homelessness. In Los Angeles County, we have a 60% graduation rate, well below the national average of 70%. And not only is the poverty rate in L.A. County higher than the nation as a whole, but we are the homeless capital of the nation.
Homelessness is extreme poverty. A serious illness or the loss of a job can leave anyone in extreme poverty. And when kids become homeless, their education suffers immensely.