Why Poverty Matters… See the World Premiere of Paper Tigers on May 28th in Seattle

Paper Tigers is a movie about the real lives of real kids. It explains why and how poverty and related adverse childhood events such as hunger and homelessness affect the academic performance of students. At a time when most high schools are needlessly increasing the stress on students by requiring them to pass endless high stakes tests and other misguided “get tough” policies, one high school decided to reduce the stress on students by focusing on caring about and helping each student as a person. They achieved a 90% decrease in suspensions and a 5 fold increase in graduation rates. Paper Tigers captures the pain, the danger, the beauty, and the hopes of struggling teens—and how a simple change in policy can change the lives of students for the better. To see clips from this movie, go to: http://papertigersmovie.com/

The world premiere of Paper Tigers will beThursday May 28 2015 at 7 pm at the Cinema Uptown, 500 Queen Anne Avenue North near Seattle Center as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. An additional screening will take place at 12:30 PM on Saturday, May 30. Parking is free in two lots on 1st Avenue West (see map below). Show your ticket stub to collect a parking pass and either Box Office and place it on your dash. Tickets are $13 each. To order tickers, go to the following web page: http://www.siff.net/festival-2015/paper-tigers


Learn why the test and punish model of learning does not work. Did you know that U.S. schools suspend millions of students each year? According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the total is more than 3 million students per year. In Washington state, 60,000 mostly low income students are suspended each year.

Most of these suspensions were for minor infractions such as using cell phones and violating dress codes. One homeless student was suspended for sleeping on the roof of the school. http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/NEPC-SchoolDiscipline.pdf


Children growing up in homes near or below the poverty level are much more likely to be expelled. Children with single parents are between 2 and 4 times as likely to be suspended from school as are children with both parents at home. For students with major home-life stresses, academic suspension provides yet another life stress that, when compounded with what is already occurring in their lives, may predispose them to even higher risks of behavioral problems. Students who experience out-of-school suspension are as much as 10 times more likely to ultimately drop out of high school than are those who do not.

Childhood Poverty now harms nearly half of all children in Washington State
According to OSPI, the percent of children who qualify for free or reduced price lunch in Washington state has skyrocketed. Children have trouble learning when they must also cope with the stress of poverty.


Number of homeless children in Washington state Increased 56% in 5 years
Homelessness is a severe form of poverty that adversely affects the academic and emotional well being of children. According to OSPI, between the 2008-09 school year and 2013- 14 school year, Washington state experienced a 56% increase in the number of enrolled homeless students. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reports that 32,494 students were homeless during the previous school year (2013-2014). This is more than 3 percent of all students in Washington state. In a classroom of 33 students, the odds are that one of them is homeless. Because homelessness is concentrated in poorer communities, schools that serve low income communities have even high rates of homeless students.


How Homelessness Affects Academic Achievement
According to OSPI, while 4% of all students have been suspended or expelled, 8% of homeless students have been suspended or expelled. While 75% of all students in Washington state are at grade level, only half of homeless students are at grade level. In high school, while 80% of all students pass end of course exams, only half of homeless students pass end of course exams. While 80% of all students graduate from high school, only 52% of homeless students graduate from high school. The cost of a student not graduating to the tax payers is hundreds of thousands of dollars.


2011 Cuts to Work First Program in Washington State Force Thousands of Low Income Families into Homelessness
During the 2011 legislative session, while the state legislature was approving billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy, they also cut $380 million from TANF and Work First programs. Senate Bill 5921 eliminated housing and food assistance for more than 17,000 low income families. The Washington State legislature also cut the Working Connections Child Care program resulting in over 27,000 families losing child care support which had previously enabled parents to have free or low cost child care while they went to school to get training for a living wage job. Meanwhile, both Microsoft and Boeing receive more than one billion dollars in tax breaks per year. In short, the reason poor kids are forced to live in the back of a car is to pay for tax breaks for billionaires.

Stories from the Washington Poverty Network: How state budget cuts have harmed real families
“Two years ago, I lost my child care when they lowered the income level requirements for qualifying. I couldn’t pay for child care because it was about $800 a month and I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for my rent and also for child care. Because I didn’t have child care I lost my job. It was a snowball effect.” ~ Veronica, Kent

“When my grant got cut, I lost my apartment. My daughter and I have been homeless since the summer. Try to find a place to rent for $385/month.” ~ Darla, Yakima

“Myself and my two-year-old son, we get $311 in food stamps. Up until two years ago my husband and I were both working, but then he suddenly passed away. I am between a rock and a hard place. I want to work. I do not want to be on the system,. But I cannot get child care.” ~ Angela, Tacoma

“In this kind of poverty you gauge your future about 12 hours in advance: where am I going to sleep tonight? What am I going to eat? It feels hard, without a stable housing situation to think in terms of a month, 6 months, a year or two years down the road.” ~ Debbie, Yakima

How much would it cost to eliminate child homelessness in Washington state?
Providing housing for 30,000 homeless families in Washington would cost an additional $5,000 per family, an annual total cost of $150 million dollars per year, or less than one percent of what our state gives away in tax breaks for the wealthy. Another $150 million would pay for job training for the parents of these low income kids.

We can fully fund public schools and end homelessness in Washington State simply by eliminating a single tax break for the rich
The Washington state legislature gives away more than $30 billion per year in the form of 655 tax breaks. Just one 1997 tax break gives away about $4 billion per year to the wealthy. Senate Bill 6093 would repeal this tax break, fully fund public schools, create more than 100,000 jobs and have enough money left over to end homelessness in Washington state. To learn more about Senate Bill 6093, visit our website:

Watch Another Short Video on How to Actually Help Students
If you cannot make it to the Paper Tigers movie on May 28th, another option is to watch this 2 minute Youtube video by Robert Reich.


Solving the problems with school funding, child poverty and homelessness is not complex. It simply requires that we as the public elect legislators who are willing to vote to repeal tax breaks for the rich. Until we change the makeup of our state legislature, the toxic effect of poverty and homelessness in our state will continue to get worse. It is time for all of us who care about kids to get more politically active.

Originally published at Coalition to Protect Public Schools

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