Education does not lift kids out of poverty. In fact, education does nothing to overcome the close correlation between the parent’s earnings and a child’s earnings. Poverty persistence is nearly unbeatable.

In that vein, it doesn’t matter if you put a poor kid in a top school or a top student in a terrible school. Their earning power will be that of their parents. Also, it doesn’t matter whose genes you have. Your earning power is environmental.

Researchers have found that poverty can harm the brains of small children. Low-income families had a brain surface area on average 6 percent smaller than that of children in high-income families. Jack Shonkoff, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education says neuroscience shows us the opportunity where we can make a big difference for poor children.

But we are not using that opportunity. Instead, we are sending them to school even though we know that doesn’t work. And, horrifyingly, we are developing programs to make poor kids do more school than rich kids.

We push low-income parents to put their kids in full-day school so their kids don’t fall behind. But that’s not working because kids need what they get from an individual caretaker rather than a group setting. We push poor kids to go to school all summer, while the rich kids are getting engaging, specialized teaching at camp.

What can we do to change the cycle of poverty? A wide body of research shows teaching poor parents to stimulate their children can have significant, long-term impact on the kids’ earning power.

The amount of time a father spends with young children has long-term impact on brain development. For example,  a father’s presence in a baby’s life improves the child’s vocabulary, in a ways that a constant daycare provider or school teacher does not. And a father’s presence makes his daughter go through puberty later which is a touchpoint for future success.

Middle class parents are more likely to teach kids how to assert themselves. Which means poor kids are less likely to ask questions in class and more likely to ask for help after school. Also, middle class parents are more likely to see themselves as equal to or superior to teachers so they push back on the school to protect their kids.

A striking op-ed from a minority student from the Ivy League talks about how even if you can get into a great school, rich parents expose their kids to a much wider world  than poor parents and that has a huge impact on graduation rates. The difference between rich and poor parenting never ends, no matter how smart (or not) you are.

The rich-poor gap is growing because there’s a growing gap between amount of time and attention rich and poor parents can invest in their kids.

We can’t solve the rich-poor gap with school. We have to solve it with family.

All the data we have says we need to help poor parents invest more time and energy into their kids. That begs the questions: How do those parents get the money to stay home to do that? Or how do poor parents find the money to hire the high-quality child care that rich parents hire to make up for their absence? Or how do parents get more financial resources so they can keep marriages together? (Single parents live in poverty and rich, educated couples do not get divorced.)

Minimum wage increases will not close the parenting gap between rich and poor kids. Because minimum wage is barely enough to keep a family homeless. It’s definitely not enough to get good childcare. The cost of childcare that is equal to a parent is so high that it’s not a possibility for low-income families. Which means a parent needs to be home with the kids.

The best way for a parent to be home with kids and earn money is with a flexible, part-time job.  But there are very few of those. Flexible jobs benefit rich people more than poor people, because rich people can make up the gap in childcare with high quality care. But poor parents can’t. So it won’t be enough to channel school money to poor families. We also need to force companies to provide a certain minimum percentage of jobs with flexible hours.

Increasingly, rich parents are staying home with their kids. The opt-out revolution is rich people. The homeschooling movement is rich people. Launching new businesses is growing among women, especially, but not among poor women. Rich parents are figuring out how to have one parent home with the kids. Poor parents do not have the tools to make that happen in their family. We need to reduce that disparity more than we need to improve schools.

The bottom line is that the way to close the rich-poor gap is to help poor parents spend more time and energy with their kids. Companies should get tax breaks for creating jobs that allow people to work and take care of kids. Politicians should use their influence on expenditures to reward businesses that create flex-time jobs. And if you are in a position to create jobs, create jobs that allow people to work and be home for their kids.

We spend so much money on schools, and that money does nothing to bring kids out of poverty. So we should shift the spending to create jobs to bring the kids’ parents out of poverty in a respectful, family-friendly way.