Last year I received this note from Union Public Schools, encouraging me to sign up for free/reduced priced lunches...even if I didn't need it. The idea, I guess, was for me to get free lunches for my kids and $1.95 a month phone service, while Union gets a few cheap bucks from the Feds in the process.
This is Lisa Griffin, Director of Union’s Child Nutrition, calling to tell you about an important opportunity. Meal prices this year are $1.00 for breakfast, $1.75 for an elementary lunch, and $2.00 for a secondary lunch. Your student will receive an application for free and reduced price meals during the first week of school. If your family qualifies, it could save you up to $525 per child, and provide our district more revenue to use for teacher salaries, books, and supplies. Even if your student does not intend to eat in the school cafeteria, an approved application will benefit the district. Other benefits for you include qualifying for Sooner Care insurance, discounted telephone rates, and school test fees. Please seriously consider completing this application and fill out only one per family. Return it to your child’s school. For more information, call 357-6134.I was greatly saddened to see this note coming from Union Public Schools. While I don't, in theory, have a problem with this federal program, I reject the outright plea for parents to sign up for it. I saw this same thing at Tulsa Public Schools (see Please Fill Out Our School Lunch Form...Please and The Welfare State Starts at School). It is one of the reasons we moved out of TPS, "The District of Choice" and into Union.
Aside from the obvious moral implications of asking parents to take government money that they don't need, I worried about what a massive boost to free/reduced price lunch enrollment would mean for Union in the long run. I asked myself, what is the ultimate goal for Union, for every student to qualify for a free lunch? Do we really want every school in Union to be a Title 1 school? Getting that kind of federal money carries a terrible price. The simple fact is that parents looking to move in to Union will pass it by, scared off by high numbers of kids getting free/reduced lunches. Unfortunately, it won't end with families passing Union over; as free/reduced lunch enrollment rises, more and more people will flee the district for "greener pastures". Unchecked it would constitute an escalating probability of disaster*. It is a problem that will feed on itself until Union is no better than TPS (or even scarier...no worse)
So, last year I called Lisa Griffin and politely protested. Apparently she listened to what I had to say, because the tone of this year's note was quite a bit different.
This is Lisa Griffin, Director of Union Public Schools Child Nutrition, calling with a friendly reminder. Please consider completing and sending back your application for free and reduced price meals this week, if you have not already done so. These forms were sent out through the mail the middle of July. Getting this form returned before school starts will allow your students to eat without any charges and will remove one more thing from your list of “to-dos” for school. Call 357-6134 if you would like another form. Thank you!Ms. Griffin told me that she thought of me when she wrote it...I'm not sure if that is good or bad. All I know is I'm happy we aren't pushing so hard for folks to sign up for free/reduced priced lunches.