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For the poor, recovery is a mirage

For the poor, recovery is a mirage

TROY, Ohio — ​​​​​​The rise in poverty here is evident in the mass of people who crowd the waiting room of the free health clinic every Thursday night — so many that the volunteer staff turns away about half of them.

It is marked by the bare shelves of the food pantry at Richards Chapel United Methodist Church, a one-story sanctuary where dozens of laid-off factory workers, retirees and young parents with children fill the dining hall daily for a free lunch.

And it is lived by Nancy Scott, a former stay-at-home mom working a temporary minimum-wage job, who says she had to choose between exhausting her paycheck on rent and utilities or living in her 1990 pickup.

She chose the truck.

This rural community, 22 miles north of Dayton, has seen an explosion of poverty in the past four years that is among the highest increases in the nation. Last year, 16,000 people lived in poverty in Miami County — one of every six residents, the Census says. Four years ago, just as the Great Recession was taking its grip on the nation, one in 16, or 6,000 people, suffered in poverty here.

The recession hit the Miami Valley hard, squeezing the lifeblood of the local economy: the auto industry and manufacturers that shed thousands of jobs. Families living on the margins of poverty found themselves catapulted into its misery.

This pain has festered even as the circumstances for many Americans have improved. Although the U.S. poverty rate hovers at a daunting 15%, economists agree a slow recovery is afoot. Housing prices are stabilizing, manufacturing is rebounding and last week’s consumer confidence index reached the highest level in five years.

But for people in Troy — and the tens of millions of Americans like them — the daily hardships of poverty aren’t captured in statistics or healed by political promises. As lawmakers in Washington grapple with the “fiscal cliff” and Americans do their holiday shopping, thousands of people in Miami County are managing on little or no income.

 READ MORE AT usatoday.com

A record number of families are living in poverty

Billy Schlegel plunged from middle class into poverty in the time it took his daughter to play a soccer season.

In January 2010, he was making $50,000 a year as a surveyor, meeting the mortgage payments on his three-bedroom home in the nation’s wealthiest county and paying for his children to play hockey and soccer.

Then came February. Schlegel, 45, was laid off. During the next 18 months, the divorced father of three almost lost his house, had to stop paying child support and turned to the local food bank for basic necessities.

“You’ve got to swallow your pride,” Schlegel says. “Especially around here; people lose their status and they feel they don’t fit in.”This is the face of poverty after the Great Recession. Millions of Americans such as Schlegel now find themselves among the suddenly poor.

Read more at: http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2011-09-29-New-poverty-I-Suddenly-poor_CV_U.htm

 

 

Small Va. towns regroup in quake’s wake

Damage was pretty severe in homes in the small Va. towns where Tuesday’s earthquake was strongest. Now, residents regroup, reassess after earthquake http://ow.ly/1eomvo

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

Here’s a link to the original story, written by my USA TODAY colleague Jack Gillum and I, that the NY Times column referred to.

WASHINGTON — In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its “shining stars.”

Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-28-1Aschooltesting28_CV_N.htm

Alabama town faces its history 50 years after Freedom Rides

ANNISTON, Ala. — Walk through this small industrial town in northeast Alabama and it looks much like it did 50 years ago. The light brick one-story building on Gurnee Avenue that once housed the Greyhound bus depot is on the same corner. So is the police station in the next block.

Yet the tenor of the town where Hank Thomas was almost killed for trying to desegregate buses in the Deep South has changed.

Back then, Thomas was a 19-year-old black college student facing an angry mob of white people who firebombed and slashed the tires of the Greyhound bus in which he and other students, black and white, were riding as part of a protest known as the Freedom Rides. Police did nothing as the choking riders fled the flaming bus.

As events this summer mark the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the iconic image of that bus is a reminder of the nation’s troubled history. For his part, Thomas returned last month to a contrite and welcoming town.

http://www.usatoday.com/video/index.htm?bctid=969696598001#/Freedom+Riders+educate+a+new+generation/969696598001

Haitian survivors rebuild their lives after deadly earthquake

The sad, uplifting story of a Haitian father who lost his wife and oldest daughter and works to make life better for himself and his youngest daughter, who lost her arm in the quake.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-05-12-haiti-earthquake-survivor-update_n.htm

Mourners remember Elizabeth Edwards

This was one of the first videos I edited on deadline. A sad farewell to Elizabeth Edwards.