Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Lunch Bullies

Republicans really do want to get rid of free school lunches for millions of poor kids, because those people are all lazy and don't deserve it.  One problem though: the latest GOP proposal to do just that would affect an increasing number of red state school districts where austerity is already king.

The changes would take away schoolwide free meals programs from more than 7,000 schools that educate almost 3.4 million students in low-income areas, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports. Another 11,600 schools that have not yet taken advantage of the free meals option for all students would lose access to it under the proposal. Instead of using what’s called Community Eligibility, these schools would have to reinstate individual applications and verification procedures for huge numbers of students.

The draft bill circulating in the House Education and Workforce Committee lists no author. But sources told ThinkProgress that the push to make free meals harder is coming from a specific handful of Republican congressmen on the subcommittee in charge of pre-school, primary, and secondary education issues.

The list includes Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), who has a track record of wild-eyed claims about anti-poverty programs, and Subcommittee Chair Todd Rokita (R-IN), who famously cross-examined a woman who raises her children on a $10.88 hourly wage at a 2014 hearing. Neither congressman's office immediately returned requests for comment on the school food restrictions.

Meanwhile, the list of schools that would be affected is making some Republicans realize that the idea would have an impact in their own districts. The draft legislation has yet to be formally introduced, making it relatively easy for lawmakers to walk away from the proposed restrictions on school meals without anyone having to cast a committee vote against a colleague's pet project.

The community eligibility system should be a winner even for fiscal conservatives. Determining free meals eligibility on a schoolwide basis rather than kid by kid lets under-funded districts "shift resources from paperwork to higher-quality meals or other educational priorities," the CBPP report notes.

The proposal would change the definition of how poor a school district has to be before it can skip the paperwork and feed all of its students. Currently a school qualifies for community eligibility if 40 percent of its students are automatically qualified for free school meals based on their participation in another anti-poverty program. The GOP draft measure would raise that threshold to 60 percent.

Republicans really do want to pull the trigger on this, but they're afraid they'll get savaged in elections.  I don't know why they;re worried, red state Republicans would rather die than admit their kids are on assisted lunch programs at school.

Then they figure Republicans will put that funding back for the right kind of people who deserve it.

And so that story goes.

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