Should Tacoma schools be offering free lunch during teacher strike?
While the Tacoma teacher strike continues without a resolution on the horizon, many students can still be found in the cafeteria on weekdays. That’s because the Tacoma district is still offering free school lunch and breakfast to students at 12 different schools.
“So when school ended in June, did the kids starve from June all the way to August? Or did somebody feed them breakfast and lunch?” joked KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “Why does the school feed the children? Why doesn’t the parent feed the child?”
The Tacoma district offered teachers a $5,500 per teacher raise, and a $250 annual stipend for classroom supplies. School officials argue that the district already faces at least a $25 million deficit. So while teachers can be found outside picketing, many students are being dropped off for breakfast and lunch, reports Q13 Fox.
“What’s nice about this is that 58 percent of the student population receive free breakfast and lunch, so they are offering the service to over half of the students of that entire school district,” said co-host Tom Tangney.
But for Curley, free lunch programs like these create dependency and undermine the special role a parent plays in making their kids lunch.
“I think a sack lunch from a parent tells the kid you matter,” Curley said. “Mom gets up a little earlier than she expected, and makes you a sandwich, she puts it in a bag, puts in a note, puts your name on it, and you go to school.”
“You know what? That kid feels loved, that kid feels special.”
Are parents abandoning their responsibility by taking advantage of free lunches?
By shifting the responsibility of making lunch to the school and government, Curley believes parents are abandoning a crucial role in their kids life.
“When the mom doesn’t have time or doesn’t care enough or whatever the situation is, and just sends the kid into the school to be paid for, by the school, by the administration, by the government — it sends a signal to the kid that you don’t matter that much.”
“I do not like the fact that we have abdicated the responsibility of doing the most basic thing, which is nurturing a child with food, and you give that to the government.”
Tom sees the program as a supplemental for those who need it.
“These free and reduced lunches are for lower income students,” he said. “I think the students in Tacoma are not as well of as other districts. That is a sign that they could use that support.”
But Curley views it as a disingenuous way for schools to bolster their budget while parents take advantage.
“Free and reduced lunch is a way of creating the impression that you need more federal dollars. For every kid that gets free and reduced lunch, you get more federal dollars,” Curley said. “They encourage the parents and encourage the kids to lie on the applications because they know very few of them will be audited.”
“By doing that, more dollars come from the federal government to the schools to be able to supplement their budget.”