How do you define poverty?

Measuring poverty can be an “inexact science,” says an expert on the subject. He then could have gone on to say, “But most of us know it when we see it … or live it.”

Don Baylor, director of Opportunity Texas, didn’t go there. But he did travel along some tricky terrain in a 30-minute conversation with Amarillo College’s Ellen Robertson Green.

The interview is posted online at

Baylor, whose Opportunity Texas department is an arm of the Center for Public Policy Priorities think tank in Austin, visited Amarillo recently to talk with Green about poverty in Texas — and in the Panhandle particularly.

Sixty-seven percent of Amarillo Independent School District’s 30,000 students — or roughly 20,100 children — qualify for the district’s free or reduced-price lunch program. As Green noted in her conversation with Baylor, sometimes these are the only meals the students get during a regular school day.

Many factors contribute to families living in poverty. Educational levels fall short; sometimes it’s generational, with older generations being unable to teach their children or grandchildren how to escape poverty’s grip; outside economic trends contribute to people’s inability to succeed.

Baylor and Green also talk about the “resilience” shown by families caught in these poverty cycles. In the special “Fighting Chance,” produced by public TV station KLRU in Austin, viewers see the fighting spririt that lives in families struggling to survive each day.

As is always the case with public television, Green’s interview with Baylor is smart and incisive. If you missed the KACV broadcast, don’t fret. It’s online. Take a look and learn a bit more about Panhandle poverty. It’s out there.


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