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Katko says education reform is needed to reduce poverty in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) helps one woman bag her food at the First English Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Syracuse on Tuesday.

To raise awareness on the state of poverty in Syracuse, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) went to several food pantries and nonprofit organizations serving the poor on Tuesday. Katko said the way to reduce poverty is by reforming inner-city education.

In the few years Mike Tuff has been a volunteering at the First English Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Syracuse, he has seen a large increase in the number of people coming once a month for food, clothes and other items.  

“It’s not intended to feed them all the way," Tuff said. "We can’t do that, we’re a small church, and I mean small! There are too many hungry people.”

Katko agrees the poverty situation in Syracuse is getting worse and he said more government spending is not the answer. Katko said there is a direct correlation to Syracuse being ranked as the 23rd most impoverished city in the nation, and the fact that only half the city's students graduate from high school. Katko said the government should reform education, specifically Common Core standards, if people want to see the poverty numbers improve.

“We need to change the dialogue in education and treat people differently in the city and address high poverty areas with education in a different way and not have this one size fits all approach because I don’t think it’s working,” Katko said. “We have these federal mandates that tell them how to educate everybody and treat them all the same, they’re all going to have the same standards. It’s not realistic.”

In terms of helping food banks, Katko said he believes people and businesses can do more to contribute. 

"Maybe figure out a better way to have private, public partnerships," Katko said. "Better partnering with the food pantries and help them grow and take some of the burden off the government. Maybe give them some incentives for giving food to a place like this.”

About 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.