Educators feel pain of low-income families with Poverty SimulationPublished 3:28pm Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Administrators and teachers from the Morgan County School System experienced the challenges families living in poverty face on a daily basis during a poverty simulation conducted at Priceville High School Aug. 5.
The exercise involved approximately 75 participants, including 45 school personnel. It was led by Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing poverty and its root causes across Alabama.
The simulation tasked participants to role-play the lives of low-income families during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” All of the families were trying to get by on incomes under the federal poverty level, which is $23,000 per year for a family of four. Most had financial obligations that far exceeded their income, and some faced eviction from their homes because they were behind on their rent.
A family of three, 14- and 17-year-old daughters and an unemployed mom, was role-played by Johnna Ladner, a teacher at Priceville Middle School, Marley Smith, a teacher at Union Hill School and Brad Stapler, principal at Cotaco School.
The family had no income and $10 cash. They needed $400 for rent and utilities and transportation to go hunt for a job. Resources available to them included: a fast loan company, a pawnshop, social services (food stamps), an employment agency, child care, a mortgage and a realty company.
The role players’ task was to find ways to help the families meet their financial obligations.
“It was frustrating to put yourself in their shoes,” Stapler said. “We had to use the $10 for transportation so the mom had a way to go find a job. We finally had to hock some jewelry to pay the utility bill but still came up short.”
The simulation was directed by Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible. She was assisted by Jackie Kinney, Morgan County Schools director of federal programs.
“This is not a game,” Scott said as she went over the rules of the simulation. “It’s real life struggles for those living in poverty. My hope is that each of you will walk away from this exercise with a different perspective about poverty.”