Panel on poverty, featuring Newt Gingrich, Cornel West, stresses education

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Colleen Murphy

With economic policy topping the national agenda, a group of activists are calling on President Barack Obama to shift his attention to poverty and class division in the U.S. – problems they say have escalated in almost every state.

Speakers – including former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and Democratic socialist Cornel West –  pushed education reform as a solution to the cycle of poverty at the Future without Poverty panel in Lisner Auditorium Thursday.

The advocates agreed, despite some dissent from Gingrich, that the country must address its “broken infrastructure,” including a failing public school system, and overcome partisan politics, which overwhelms the voices of the poor. They pointed out that income inequality has grown in 49 states over the past 20 years.

West said the president must recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s effort to combat poverty before he places his hand on the civil rights leader’s bible on Monday.

“[The American public has] ripped apart his legacy and his name in vain,” said Jonathan Kozol, a writer and education reform enthusiast, in support of West.

Kozol pushed for smaller class sizes in U.S. public schools and emphasized close relationships between teachers and students. The panel urged attendees to sign a petition to the president, asking him to address the public and hold conferences on the subject.

The event was filmed in Lisner and will appear on PBS from Jan. 22 to 26.

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