Wednesday, October 07, 2015

CCSD Won't Make Parent Deadbeats Cry Over Unpaid Lunches

In the past four years, the Charleston County School District has accrued half a million dollars in unpaid student lunches. These parents, despite CCSD's best efforts, have ignored its attempts to get them to sign up for free or reduced fee lunches or to pay their debts.

If only the truly needy students benefitted from federal programs that help the poor, those programs would have more resources to help the truly needy. Duh.

In a list of ongoing taxpayer ripoffs, free and reduced fee school meals rank right up there. We know parents self-report their income and students' need for free or reduced meals, the school district does not check, and federal auditing is minimal. The chance of  parents' being challenged on their income is neglible.

Who would contest that some children are truly needy and would go hungry if not fed by their schools? On the other hand, why should parents who can pay their bills get away with sponging off the taxpayers? 

In CCSD, "parents know there are no repercussions and students know the same thing," according to Walter Campbell, who heads CCSD's Nutrition Services Department. So only the truly honest or naive pay their bills. Campbell proposed hiring a collections agency and other measures which were shot down by the school board last July. Chris Staubes said he didn't want "to ruin [the parents'] credit ratings." Apparently, Dorchester District 2 has different ideas.

But, never fear, the federal government is stepping in with a partial solution to the Nutrition Services' budget problems. No, it's not going after unpaid bills, silly. A new program named the Community Eligibility Provision will provide all students, needy or not, with free meals in 42 CCSD schools. Here are the requirements to participate:

Any school with 40 percent or more “identified students” can participate in CEP. Identified students include children who are directly certified (through data matching) for free meals because they live in households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), as well as children who are certified for free school meals without submitting a school meal application because of their status as being in foster care, enrolled in Head Start, homeless, runaway, or migrant students.

Typically, schools with 75 percent or more free and reduced‐price certified students will meet the 40 percent identified student requirement. School districts with 40 percent or more identified students may participate district‐wide or may group schools together to reach the 40 percent identified student threshold.
Isn't that great?  CCSD's getting free money! We can all relax now that we know our tax dollars are hard at work.

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