|Shut up and eat your food. Or no more SmartBoards.|
In 1946, the Truman administrationas part of the Progressive Health, Education, and Welfare trifecta began the national school lunch program (NSLP). In 1966, LBJ extended that to include breakfasts as well (NSBP). And in 2011-2012, the Obama administration is introducing dinners to students. Yes, a child in America can now eat federally approved meals three times a day, five days a week (some programs offer weekends as well).
US taxpayers cough up over $11 billion per year in school lunch programs, more than double since 2005. The NSBP is over $2 billion per year; as far as the dinner program, no real dollar amounts are available since this program is still technically prototyped, and our Senate has not exactly passed a budget in years. Let us say the total cost is around $15 billionwhen you factor in milk programs, et al., the real cost may be $20 billion, but let us say $15 billion. With about 62,100,000 tax payers in the US, thats somewhere around $245 per taxpayer per year. Such a bargain.
If you look at the Department of Education statistics, you seem to get a lot of interesting information. 95% of public schools participate in the NSLP, with about 31 million children participating each day. 85% participate in the NSBPwith about 11 million children participating each day. Because, as you know, kids do better in school when they have a nutritious breakfast and lunch!
Of course, if you have ever spent time in the schools, you see something quite different: you see kids throwing almost all of it away. No kdding here: the typical school lunch, for example, consists of a slice of pizza, an apple, a carton of milk, and carrots. The kid eats the pizza, drinks the milk, and pitches the rest. You can verify this for yourself easily at your own school.
Okay, but forget about the waste. Let us talk money.
$245 seems like a pittance to feed all these kids. But with 31 million kids participating, are there that many starving kids who cannot bring a meal from home? In other words, if the NSLP stopped tomorrow, would we have 31 million malnourished kids? No, because according to the National Poverty Center, only about 16.4 million kids are in the poverty category. Of course, that number is based on 22% of the poverty threshold, which is itself based on single parent or dual parent income levels, weighted by the number of children you have. Given that many single parents receive child support, have assistance from other family members, and so on, the actual number is likely less.
But if we did have 16.4 million kids who cannot afford $245about the price of an XBox 360, which it turns out 29% of them ownthat still would be a lot less than the 31 million getting a school lunch on your dime. Malnourished? Actually, the average poor child is as well nourished as an upper middle class child. Damn statistics.
So in reality, very few participants actually need you and us to pay for their breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Therefore, you might suspect, the government could well afford to cut it back.
In fact, they are not planning to cut it back; indeed, they want more and more and more kids participating. In fact, the cost to you is much higher than $245 a taxpayer. You just dont know it.
Because the Department of Education has something called the e-rate program. You can ask your principal about it, and you will get all sorts of glowing responses. Basically, the federal government will give a school nine dollars for every dollar the school spends on technology. This includes computers for the students, obviously. It also includes iPads for the teachers, high speed wireless access, LCD projectors, SmartBoards, videoconferencing, network switch gear, audiovisual systems, whatever. So if you can cough up $10,000 and a technology plan that describes the stuff you want to buy, the Department of Education might award you an additional $90,000. If you can scrape up a million, you get nine million, and so on.
Here is where it gets even sweeter. You pay for that 90% matching fund through your income taxes. Ouch. Oh, we should also mention you also pay for that 10% initial fund through your property taxes. In essence, this is costing you everything.
And you still have to pay the $245. Why do we bring this up? Because there is a small catch to the e-rate program. One you would never imagine.
To get that money, your schools kids have to participate in the NSLP. Further, there is a sliding scale: if your schools participation drops off, so too does the e-rate money. What ridiculous right-wing, paranoid, spittle-spewing website did the Czar find this chart on, you wonder:
|If the percentage of students in the school qualifying for the National School |
Lunch Program is…
|…and the school is in an URBAN area, the E-rate discount will |
|…and the school is in a RURAL area, the E-rate discount will |
Less than 1%
1% to 19%
20% to 34%
35% to 49%
50% to 74%
75% to 100%
So what is the Czars beef with this? Dont we want our schools to have the latest and greatest technology?
Yeah, Johnnys teacher can get an iPad, but only if he eats his federal meat loaf first.
These programs are bribing schools to make kids participate. Didnt get 188 kids to eat their spaghetti? Looks like you only get an 80% discount this year toward your e-rate IT plan. If you want that new HD projector in Mrs. Upholsterys first-grade room, better luck next year with the meals, eh?
Drink your milk or no touchscreen tablet for the gym teacher.
You might ask yourselfwhy is the Department of Education so damned determined to feed our kids that they will dump nine times the amount of money a school can raise on additional technology systems?
Health. Education. Welfare. You can connect the dots.
Some folks did. A large school district outside Chicago offers a breakfast and lunch program, entirely paid for by the students with minimal subsidies from property taxes. They offer really good meals, and the program is quite popular. Why? According to one of the administrators, the district refuses to suck the teat of the Department of Educationbecause once you accept their money, you accept their meal programand other conditions regarding your curriculum. This particular district refuses to have the feds burrow into their schools. God bless em.
If you have kids in a public school, and if the school offers students meals, check into things at the next curriculum night. Simply ask if the school participates in the e-rate program. If they say yes, and point out all the wonderful SmartBoards, you know the Progressives are in your school. Whether your school knows it or not.