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Shouldn't we be helping those at home first?

By: Marc Joseph-- 2015-11-02 9:19 am --

The U.S. spends $30 billion a year on official development assistance overseas, according to Oxfam America. That works out to $80 for each person abroad we help. We have foreign aid because it protects our national security with hopes it will reduce poverty and injustice that fuel social tensions and destabilizes countries. It also helps with our own economic interests because aid can support the generation of demand for U.S. goods, which builds stable trading partners and based on the morality of our country "it's the right thing to do" because it may help advance human rights and in turn democracy. Anyone picking up a newspaper over the last couple of months has got to question if our aid has made countries more stable, brought democracy to the rest of the world or created a larger demand for U.S. made goods.

Last year, we spent $14.4 billion to support Title 1, which is the elementary and secondary education act (ESEA) that provides resources to schools situated in low income communities that are struggling to provide a high quality education to all children, according to the National Title 1 Association. This is down from the previous year by 5.2% because of the government cut in funds due to our ongoing "sequestration." Childhood poverty in the U.S. stands at 21.1%; more than one in five kids in America, which is 15.5 million children. The National Education Association (NEA) says that to reach all eligible children in poverty, Title 1 needs $45 billion. What a coincidence that Title 1 is $30 billion short of helping our kids at home--the same amount of dollars we are shipping overseas.

Title 1 support is so important to the future of America and what makes a school successful. According to Newsweek and the research done by Harvard professor Roland Fryer Jr., strictly controlled environments foster success in students. Five principles are reflected in successful schools: frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide classroom instruction, frequent and high quality tutoring, extended school day and year, and a school culture of high expectations. Title 1's funding goal is "to ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach proficiency on state academic achievement standards." So, Title 1 funds are to be used to improve curriculum, instructional activities, counseling, parental involvement, increase staff and program improvement.

No kid in America should go hungry and our government does have a federally subsidized school lunch program. According to Atlas, this program supports student nutrition in over 101,000 schools and provided free and reduced priced meals to low income children before school, during school, after school and over the summer. This program underwrote five billion meals served to 31 million students.

In September, the Children's Defense Fund released the latest data about poverty stating there are 46.7 million poor people in America and one of three of these poor are children. Children remain the poorest age group in America. Children of color, who will be the majority of children in America in 2020, are disproportionately poor, with 37% of black children and 32% of Hispanic children being poor, contrasted with 12% of white kids. The younger the children, the poorer they are, with 25% of kids under age five considered poor; and these are the years of greatest brain development.

We have to be realistic. The government only has so much money to spend to continue to operate. Our legislatures scared us in September by averting a government shutdown and approved temporary spending measures to keep federal agencies operating through December 11. Much like we have trouble balancing our checkbooks and prioritizing where we spend our own money, our government is having that problem on a massive scale and continues to kick the can down the road, creating uncertainty in just about every aspect of our government. So, until our leaders get their acts together, it falls back on individuals to help the poor, the hungry and the disadvantaged in this country. Luckily there are several nonprofits set up to begin to help those in the most need where we can turn to with our donations and volunteer to help. The Children's Defense Fund is a strong and effective independent voice for all children in America. The Salvation Army, in their mission for "doing the most good," feed, clothe and comfort those in the most need. The Gospel Rescue Missions provide social services to help the less fortunate. And at DollarDays on ourFacebook page, we are giving away $5,000 in products to nonprofits that help those in need, so make sure you nominate your favorite organization that can use our help.

The numbers of those in need in America are staggering. Our government has no more money to allocate to additional programs, so it must move its dollars around rather than hoping to collect more taxes. This country needs to look to help itself first. What would happen if we took all of this foreign aid and poured it into lifting our own struggling citizens up?