I remember back in 2008 when the school board tackled school lunch charges:
The Rhino Times first reported on the growing hole in the Guilford County Schools budget from unpaid meal charges in 2008, when the school system had $77,000 in unpaid meals. The dollar amounts of unpaid school lunches at Guilford County Schools had grown from $27,000 in December 2005 to the $77,000 in December 2007.
By March 2008, then-School Superintendent Terry Grier, who by that time was in the final months of his tenure, warned the school board that the cost of the unpaid lunches could skyrocket.
Grier said, “We could easily wake up one day and be $100,000 or more in debt.”
It’s now $500k and the board voted 6-4 to cap the amount students can charge.
What strikes me about this issue is the way the board worried that cracking down on school lunch debt would stigmatize students while board member Nancy Routh encouraged more parents to apply for free and reduced lunches, as if that’s not a stigma in itself. I guess not, since so many students qualify these days.
Meanwhile, board member Ed Price also worried about treating students differently because “children can be cruel about this in school.” Price then proposed suing the parents who didn’t pay in small claims court.
But as the Rhino writes, it’s not really about feeding kids:
The reason the school system is more obsessed with its free and reduced-lunch percentage is that the school system, as well as the state and federal governments, use the free and reduced-price lunch figure as a proxy for poverty for funding purposes. It’s no longer allowable to call poor students “poor,” so Guilford County Schools administrators speak of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Also, advertising the number of poor students in a school system takes the sting out of poor test scores.
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