In the recent State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a series of bold proposals that will increase access to high-quality education. Among them were initiatives to make quality early education accessible to every child, to tame the spiraling cost of college, and redesign the country’s high schools to meet the needs of the real world. The President called for a new College Scorecard to show parents and students “where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”
These proposals complemented other efforts to strengthen the middle class, including calls to raise the minimum wage and reform immigration. Education was one of the major themes of the President’s annual speech delivered to Congress and the country.
The President said, “Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”
I have a real issue with this. While it may work for some communities, we have other priorities we need to focus on here in Kansas City like ending the Food Desert in the Third District (east of Troost) where it is easier to walk to a Taco Bell and Church’s Chicken than it is to get to the grocery store. The loss of grocery stores can be attributed to white flight to the suburbs, followed by middle-class black flight. Store owners followed the dollars, leaving residents who do not have big food budgets to fend for themselves.
There are four grocery stores in the Third Council district and numerous corner stores, ethnic markets, and food sold at convenience stores. However, the focus here is to understand the value of urban grocery stores that carry a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many stores, including convenience stores, Walgreens, and gas stations stock grab-and-go food like bananas and apples. But you have to go to a grocery or ethnic market to get a fresh food selection. The lack of fresh food directly correlates with classroom performance. If children are hungry, they aren’t going to succeed in the classroom.
So, while I appreciate the sentiment Mr. President, we have much to work on here before we can expect our students to succeed in the classroom.