Sunday, September 2, 2012

Breakfast club

My daughters both attend public school in Spring Branch ISD in the western part of Houston. They attend a school that offers a 50/50 immersion in English and Spanish. Each day they will spend half their time being instructed in English and the other half being instructed in Spanish.

Last year the school was forced to relocate because they had demolished the old building and were erecting a new one. My youngest was thrilled because she would get to start school in a brand new building.

Due to the neighborhood where the school is located, there are a large number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals, including breakfast. No problem there. Every kid should get to start the day off with breakfast.

In the past the kids who wanted breakfast would go to the cafeteria and the other kids would hang out before the start of classes. That changed this year. Due to the number of students who qualified for free breakfasts, the USDA's School Breakfast Program says every student at the school is entitled to a free breakfast - whether they (or their parents) want it or not.

Of course the school breakfasts aren't going to be as healthy or nutritious as the meals my wife and I make for our daughters in the morning so we don't want them eating what the school is serving.

And, to add an additional level of absurdity to the situation, the breakfasts will be served in the classrooms with brand new carpeting. Why, you might ask, is the school doing this? Well, as Woodward and Bernstein would say, "Follow the money."

I decided to do a little bit of digging because I just knew that federal dollars had to be involved in this somehow. And, after a bit more digging than I had anticipated, I found what I was looking for.

As it turns out, the federal government provides the school district with $1.55 for each free breakfast served, $1.25 for each reduced-price breakfast and $.27 for each paid breakfast. In a school in which 40% of more of the lunches are either free or reduced-price, the reimbursements are even larger. At my daughters' school the reimbursement rate is $1.85 for free breakfasts and $1.55 for reduced-price breakfasts.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 or more students at the school and, by mandating that free breakfasts be made available for all students, the school district will reap a pretty penny at the end of the day. You know as well as I do that the breakfasts that the school will serve will not cost $1.85 to prepare. Whatever's left is a pool of revenue for the school district (there are a total of seven elementary schools that will provide free lunches for all students).

So, all in the name of increasing district revenues, my daughters will have to sit at their desks while students around them are eating breakfast. In addition, uneaten food and leftover milk will be thrown away every day. How much sense does that make?

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