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Levels of child poverty in New York remain highest in the nation

Jonathan Kozol sitting at table signing books for women
Jenna Flanagan
Innovation Trail

New York State continues to have a higher percentage of children living in poverty than any other state. Experts in the field gathered in Albany on Thursday to brainstorm ways to deal with the issue at a forum titled ‘Growing Up in Poverty’ organized by the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.

Children growing up in poverty are denied equal access to education according to author and keynote speaker at the Growing Up in Poverty event, Jonathan Kozol.

And he says their needs go beyond the classrooms to issues like health care, housing, and emotional and psychological support.

Kozol stressed the importance of an equal early childhood education in his address.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we give all our children, certainly all children living in poverty 3 full years of really wonderful rich expensive preschool education, early childhood learning.”

Kozol admits it would be expensive to provide, but says preschool can prevent kids from dropping out of high school and ending unemployed or in prison. He says universal access to preschool makes sense economically and morally.

Schuyler Center President, Kate Breslin says the issue of poverty is often ignored because many people never encounter it.

“It’s easy to not see it so if I live in a suburb and I’m relatively comfortable, I might never see those one in four kids that are living in poverty? I might never see them unless I make the effort to go out and see them and touch them and hug them.”

Breslin says while New York’s schools remain heavily segregated, the state is a leader in making sure children in poverty have access to health care.

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