So many reformers tell us that charter schools will end poverty, or that we should “fix” the schools before we even attempt to “fix” poverty.

We have a lot of fixing to do, even without thousands more of those miracle charter schools staffed by TFA ingenues.

The latest figures from the U.S. Census show that poverty remains stuck at 15%, about 46.5 million Americans.

In the past half-century, the poverty rate had climbed to the 15 percent mark just three times: in 1982 and 1993 as well as the past three years starting in 2010.

But since 2007, the lowest-earning 20 percent of the U.S. population “fell much further” than the highest-earning 20 percent, Johnson said — more than 3 percent for the poorest families, and just 0.5 percent for the richest.

“What we’ve found is that there’s a great isolation of the poor in the sense that in the neighborhoods they’re not mixed in, and often the only people that they’re knowing and the other people that they’re going to school with are also poor,” said Clark Massey, president of A Simple House, which works with poor families often living in government-run housing projects or government-subsidized housing in Kansas City, Mo., and Washington.

In a telephone interview Monday from Kansas City with Catholic News Service, Massey said poor Americans are “not seeing examples of people working 9-to 5-jobs. They’re not seeing marriages that are working.” On the other half of the equation, “the greatest problem I see is that the wealthier upper or middle class, they’re distant from the poor. They’re in suburban neighborhoods,” he added. “There’s a great lack of information between the two, that they don’t know a lot about each other.”

Massey said, “There’s a huge segment of the population that’s homeless. We don’t think of them as homeless. They’re sleeping on couches.” He explained: “The government prioritizes moms with kids. Men tend to be homeless … and the moms are in the projects with their kids.” The men going from dwelling to dwelling to sleep on the couch is a phenomenon Massey called “couch surfing.”

It has been documented again and again that poverty is the best predictor of low test scores.

If we want to “fix” schools, it is imperative that we take action to reduce the poverty in which so many children and families live.