Multiple jobs, late nights for parents and students, minimum wage, what effect do all these realities have on the future of rural education in America? Monay and her young sons are an example of this daily struggle.
(1) It begins with WMBF news reporter Theo Hayes talking about Governor Nikki Hayley’s $2.5 million cut to education in the state budget. Renee Montagne, co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition reports that, “The 44 million Americans who rely on food stamps will have to make due on less starting today. The officially named Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program loses $5 billion in funding. That’s because a temporary increase in benefits that was part of the economic stimulus in 2009 is expiring.” Mike Moen, WNU Northern Public Radio, explains that “those cuts in federal benefits may be felt more in rural areas” based on USDA data showing that rural residents are using more aid, while city residents are using less.
(2) Carolina Kids provides an example of community assistance being given to Hartsville families. Andrea Pulling, its Director, talks about how her organization began with providing school supplies to children. Now it provides weekend food bags for children to take home during the school year. Pulling says that “80 percent of children in the district theoretically need food bags.” With 10,000 students in the school district, “we’re only doing 425 [food bags].” In addition, she keeps “learning about more need.” Signs show that West Hartsville Elementary receives 70 food bags while Thornwell receives 150.
(3) This part of the clip provides a snapshot of Rashon Johnson’s family. His mother Monay Parran has been on her own from the age of 16; she didn’t know her mother and rarely saw her father. She struggles to keep her three boys “on the right track” and to support her family by working two low- wage jobs. Monay says that Rashon has “always been a handful,” but she wants him to continue to get good grades and graduate. Rashon tells viewers that he’s looking forward to the sixth grade. Statistics shown in the clip note that to reach the poverty threshold ($23,550 for a family of four) based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, a worker would have to put in 60 hours per week. To reach South Carolina’s median income of $38,560, a worker must put in more than 100 hours per week.
• Why would families in rural areas require more financial aid than those in cities? What makes rural families more vulnerable?
• What effect would cutting food stamps have on low-income families? How might this affect children’s ability to learn?
• What concerns does the clip raise about children and families in Hartsville – and the ability of organizations like Carolina Kids to meet their needs?
• What is the role of schools in securing assistance (food, clothing, school supplies) to help families?
• How can community organizations help children to succeed in the classroom?
• What did you learn about the family’s daily routine? (Everyone wakes up at 5 am. You see the children preparing for school and making their own breakfast. Monay drops them off at the school bus stop so she can make it to her morning job by 7 am. Her second job begins at 5 pm and she finishes work around 11 pm.)
• What impacts do you think this schedule has on her three sons? How do you think their home life might affect their performance in school?
• How well do you relate to Monay’s struggles? What actions tell you that she cares about her children and wants to help them?
• Rashon is practicing basketball with one of his brothers. Monay comments that while her sons are interested in sports, she hopes they will become doctors. How should Monay talk to her sons about her aspirations for them? Would it be better if she talked to them about going to college – rather than promoting a specific career? Why?
Brainstorm ideas about how the school could connect with Monay, provide some support to her, and help her to promote the academic progress of her children.
Think about action steps that your community can take to engage parents who are struggling economically to support their families? How can you help them to become more active in supporting their children’s education including reinforcing college as an achievable goal? How can your school and community leverage 180 Days: Hartsville’s media assets to address or give visibility to this effort?