The debate over whether or not public schools provide a fair education for all students despite socioeconomic background is a deep one that we’ll have to save for another day. However, a recent study released by the Southern Education Foundation raised a significant point about the path that the nation’s public educational system is heading down. According to the study, researchers found that public school students receiving free lunch were the majority in 17 U.S. states. These schools are mostly located in the southern region of the U.S. and also include Nevada and California. Northern states did not show the same rates.

According to Michael A .Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, the issue has to do more with the growing population of individuals in the lower tax brackets:

“When you break down the various test scores, you find the high-income kids, high-achievers are holding their own and more,” Rebell told the Washington Post. “It’s when you start getting down to schools with a majority of low-income kids that you get astoundingly low scores. Our real problem regarding educational outcomes is not the U.S. overall, it’s the growing low-income population.”

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