Conference report part 2!

Our second day started out with breakout sessions to discuss how PAA can better support our chapters and affiliates. We came up with a number of great ideas and some volunteers to work on them.


PAA Board member Nate Harris

The final session began with a presentation on Poverty and Education by PAA Board member Nate Harris. Nate shared some statistics on the issues confronting low-income students and a review of some of the federal programs that are designed to address some of these needs. Nate put this data in context by noting that we all love our children and need to do whatever we can to care for them. He strongly advocates for more wrap around services for students.

Nate also introduced Dr.  Paul Thomas, who joined us via Skype. Dr. Thomas teaches in the Education Department at Furman University.

Dr. Thomas asserted that the national narrative that education is the one true way out of poverty is unfortunately not true for too many students today. He referred to research showing that 60% of the people in the top fifth of wealth tend to stay there, as do 60% of those in the bottom fifth, with social mobility decreasing over the last decades.  The data shows that if you are born wealthy and do not attend college, you earning power will still be higher than someone born into poverty who graduates from college. Education has not proven to be the ticket out of poverty.

While Dr. Thomas isn’t claiming that public education has no impact, he urges us to consider how schools may reflect and perpetuate inequities. We must first acknowledge the realities about poverty inequity and then create social and education policies to address them. Otherwise we are chasing the same solutions but never identifying what the problems are. Strategies like overcrowding, overtesting, creating more charter schools, and firing teachers are just making things worse.

Dr. Thomas urged us to adopt an  action agenda for equity. We need to be clear that schools need reform, but we also need, for example:

  • Stable jobs for parents.
  • Universal health care.
  • An end to tracking, which is almost totally connected to accident of birth.
  • A commitment that no child will have a new or uncertified teacher 2 years in a row – especially in math.

He is heartened by the strength of social media and urged us to expand our networks with other parents and allies. Dr. Thomas tweets @plthomasedd and and blogs at

We concluded this thought-provoking morning by proposing some next steps for PAA.

The PAA Board of Directors met directly after the meeting.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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