1. Quality early learning opportunities are critical to preparing children and families for educational success. There are insufficient resources available to meet all the demands for early learning.
    • Children who receive high-quality care and learning opportunities during the preschool years tend to be more successful in school and later in life than those who do not.
    • The quality of parental care during the child's early years is the main reason for a child's school success.
    • There is a high correlation between education level and income level.
  2. Our schools do not do a good job of teaching children living in poverty
    • Only 28.6% of African American males who enter ninth grade graduate on time four years later.
    • Many teachers, parents and students have low academic expectations for children coming from poverty.
    • Students who are reading below grade level in 3rd and 4th grades are more likely to drop out of school.
    • Students who are retained once are 60% more likely to drop out of school, while students who are retained twice are 90% more likely to drop out of school.
  3. Parents and mentors are critical to a child's education.
    • There are mentoring programs in the community but these programs do not have sufficient resources and volunteers to meet the demand.

Recurring Themes and Challenges

  1. The notion that there exists a welfare system that "pays people not to work" is a myth. Welfare reform has required that low income families with dependent children must be transitioning to employment in order to receive benefits.
    • The total number of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cases in Clarke County has decreased by 40% over the past two years.
  2. High levels of poverty are a burden to those who live in poverty and work to undermine the economy of the entire community.
  3. Our institutions and systems have failed to develop collaborative strategies that adequately address the challenges of poverty.
    • There is a culture of poverty in Athens that passes from generation to generation.
    • There is little innovation in developing new programs, opportunities and collaborations to break the cycle of poverty.
  4. A good education is one of the major factors in helping to overcome poverty.
    • An incomplete education -- lack of high school diploma, GED, literacy in English, workforce skills, etc. -- is a serious challenge to decreasing poverty in Athens.
    • Persons who drop out of school have few job options in Athens-Clarke County.
  5. Athens has an unskilled workforce that is a barrier to economic development.
  6. There is a lack of effective coordination and collaboration among faith-based organizations, non-profits, schools, universities and government agencies.
    • There are serious problems getting information to the public about existing assistance programs.
    • There is a lack of specialized support for immigrant populations.
    • There are gaps in services.
  7. Effective strategies to address racism and class issues are lacking.
    • In Athens-Clarke County the consequences of poverty fall mostly on African Americans and, increasingly, on our growing Latino population.
    • There is a hesitancy, by all races, to have honest dialogue about the impact of race and class as they relate to poverty.
  8. There are disincentives built into various systems that make it difficult to break the poverty cycle.