Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why There's Nothing Wrong With Feeding Schoolkids Dinner

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This story created a mild ripple in the blogosphere, and led to an interesting online discussion with some of my favorite conservatives.

It concerns a program instituted by the DC public schools to serve dinner at school.

The District of Columbia has joined 13 states which serve three meals a day at school, as part of a $5.7 million Federally Funded program.
“We're reaching 10,000 kids a day at 99 of our 120 schools," said Anthony Tata, Chief Operating Officer of D.C. Public Schools.

Public school officials claim, quite correctly, that healthy, well-fed kids learn better, and are less prone to be discipline problems. And the after school dinners also have more kids enrolling in the after school programs - where they have the opportunity to spend more time on schoolwork.

A lot of my conservative friends were outraged at the dependency and what they saw as Big Government doing something these children's parents should be doing...at the taxpayer's expense. One of them came up with the entirely correct insight that as the school system takes over more and more of the functions of family, more and more families stop functioning.

I understand that viewpoint, but I differ in this particular instance.

Assuming the kids' families qualify financially ( and I'm sure a lot of these programs need much more oversight to weed out the grifters from the truly needy) I see nothing wrong with feeding them. The article correctly states that otherwise, a lot of these kids in the after school program probably wouldn't get any food until breakfast at school the next day.

Kids with a meal under their belts do learn better, are easier to discipline and approach school with a much better attitude. The problem with the DC schools (which are near the bottom results wise and near the top in dollars spent per pupil) is the top heavy and largely incompetent administration, a lack of fiscal discipline and the teacher's union protection of incompetent teachers. I don't agree that the kids should suffer because of that just to make a point.

Vouchers are the answer,but Obama helped kill DC's voucher program - while sending his own kids to an exclusive private school.

Given the racial composition of DC's public schools,it's a pretty safe bet that the majority of these kids are coming from one parent households, with the luckier ones being raised by grandpa and grandma. There's also a culture problem when it comes to school if we're willing to be honest about it, and it is NOT a racial problem by the way - Barbados, for example is a black country that spends a fraction of what DC does per pupil with much better educational results.

One of my friends made the observation that the real cultural problem is the development of a culture of dependency. He's right, it definitely is, and it's the fruits of decades of Big Government.

But this is a cultural problem that definitely isn't going to be addressed at the home level, because of political correctness. Gut the program? Stop feeding the kids and tell their parents to do it? Fine..a lot of them will end up going hungry, get involved in crime, drugs or prostitution and just perpetuate the cycle.

Take the kids away from their dysfunctional 'families'? Then they're either in orphanages or foster homes, which costs even more and creates other problems with oversight.

Bottom line, it would be nice if more people would refrain from bringing kids into the world with the expectation that someone else is going to pay to support them. But they aren't. They'll still breed.

So we can ignore the problem as not ours, or try and fix it.

My point is that the public schools, properly managed could be a tool to instill some different values and break the cultural cycle.The fact that they by and large aren't being used like that now and are just functioning as madrassahs for the Left and sources to siphon off public monies for political contributions to the Democrats via the unions is another matter.

Back in previous generations,a large part of the entire rationale for public schools was to teach values, patriotism and citizenship as well as things like math and English. I think that unfortunately pretty much ended in the days after WWII,when teaching became just another union gig.

But if schools started instilling those values again and started creating citizens rather than statistics,if tax paying public saw that the school budgets were being used wisely and were more convinced that they were actually receiving value,there would be less of a call for vouchers and they'd likely be a lot more amenable to spending the money.

Your thoughts?

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8 comments:

Rosey said...

I lost ya FF. And you depressed me. Our public schools suck. I was waiting for you to criticize the schools for feeding the kids dinner, but you didn't. By the way, what time is dinner at public school? Yes this is a function that the families should perform. I live in the People's Republic of Oregon, which sits atop your home insane asylum, and I was blown away to see signs here for the free breakfast program being extended through the summer! I'm beginning to wonder why I play by the rules. I think I should apply for food stamps. And maybe even welfare. I sold my house and took a hit. Should I have stayed and stopped paying to get a modification? (No because I had substantial equity and the house is worth less now than when I sold it). What's the point of this late night rant? We're going to hell in a hand basket! We are rewarding failure and punishing success. Dysfunctional public schools are replacing dysfunctional families, and China and Russia, former communist countries are turning out more scientists and engineers than we are...Atlas Shrugged is the new reality...

Rhymes With Right said...

And you know that I respectfully disagree.

My objection is less about helping the less fortunate than it is about the constant "mission creep" that is being imposed on public schools that take the focus of educational institutions off of the primary mission (education) and instead tries to turn schools into one stop social service centers.

Besides, if we are going to place all parental responsibilities on schools, the eventual move of too many government bureaucrats and school administrators (and yes, I know I repeat myself) is to try to usurp the rights of all parents in response. What next? Mandatory boarding school (on the taxpayer dime) for those deemed not to be providing adequate housing for their families?

Independent Patriot said...

Feeding the hungry is a mitzvah. I do not care the reason. For shame on those that would allow others to go hungry, especially children for any reason especially for some political philosophy. If you want their parents to provide better then you need to also teach these parents a new job skill, help the economy so that there is job creation and probably teach parenting skills. When there has been family dysfunction for generations you just can't say "abra cadabra" fix it. It is a process and it doesn't happen over night. But in the end it is the innocents that need our help and should not be overlooked. This is the problem with so many conservatives today, they forget that there is a reason for government and for me the reason why I pay my taxes. My taxes go not just for an army, police and roads, but it goes to help those who can't help themselves become productive citizens. Everyone in this nation is a part of the future.I want their children to be productive members of the future that they will share with MY children.Also these nasty pieces of work that don't want to feed hungry children, where is it written that one day that may not be you and yours in one way or another? For shame on them. They are why I steadfastly remain an independent.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Y'all,
These are all great arguments. And I understand that the way these programs are applied now is a disaster.I said as much in the article.

The public schools are lousy, which is why I pay high property taxes that fund something I'm unable to use for my own children as well as private school tuition.

As Mr. Bill would say, I feel your pain, up close and personal.

But as I alos point out, cutting these programs actually ends up costing more, if you think about it in terms of what the logical result would be.Unless you're willing to legally mandate who is allowed to have kids and who isn't and enforce it with mandatory abortions (something I think we all oppose) the problem continues to perpetuate itself.

And the kids suffer for something that isn't their fault,again one of the arguments used by pro-life activists.

Take these programs, give them ninja oversight to ward off the grifters (maybe with a work or volunteer requirement for the parents), put together a voucher program to allow all parents to choose their schools, and most of all mandate the teaching of American values and citizenship the way it used to be done and you change the culture of dependency, using the schools as a tool.

Just because it isn't being done now doesn't mean it couldn't be.

Regards,
Rob

Anonymous said...

Is feeding the greedy or lazy a mitzvah?? With very few exceptions these kids parents get welfare and foodstamps. What was the foodstamps for?? I would have guessed the foodstamps were to feed the kids. Does that mean the parents have committed welfare fraud? And if they get the food stamps and don't feed their kids is that child abuse?? Isn't stoping child abuse a mitzvah??

Rosey; the schools feed them dinner and even feed them in the summer. But what is worse is many of the kids taking advantage of this shameful giveaway are illegally in this country and are thus not legally eligible for government funded aid.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Anonymous.

This is an interesting discussion, which is what this site is all about.

You wrote: "what is worse is many of the kids taking advantage of this shameful giveaway are illegally in this country and are thus not legally eligible for government funded aid."

I would assume that DC, like many localities does not check immigration status when it determines eligibility for the program, just as it likely doesn't when it comes to enrolling kids in school.

If your argument is that we should deny public assistance and the use of our schools to the children of illegal aliens, that's a different argument.

I share your concerns the US is not actually enforcing its immigration laws..but meanwhile,these kids are physically here. What's your solution?

I would agree with you that like most welfare programs, this is probably being laxly enforced, and I'm all for better enforcement of these programs. But what about the kids who actually are needy and qualify?

Let's assume your correct and the parent(s) get AFDC. Let's further assume that some of these parents are scamming the system, which is likely true. Throw the kids off the program and you are not only make them victims of a crime they had no part in but you are exacerbating a cycle that will end up costing the taxpayers lots more money than simply giving kids a few free meals.

And if the kids are in public schools and getting fed, there's at least a chance to change the culture.

Think about it.

Regards,
Rob

louielouie said...

the article says;
One of them came up with the entirely correct insight that as the school system takes over more and more of the functions of family, more and more families stop functioning.

i think this commenter has the cart before the horse. these families have stopped functioning long before big government has stepped in. this sounds like the only shovel ready project around. shovel food in their bellies.
at least big government isn't giving this money to dead people.

Anonymous said...

Woh, are a lot of people wrong on this one! Every minute the students are in school, they are being fed leftist ideology. I'm the rare conservative teacher, and I can tell ya that schools WANT to take over family life. They are just considering it one more step toward collectivism and "social justice."

Did you ever hear about the wolf in sheep's clothing? Under the guise of "helping" the kids, more and more family time is encroached upon. The person who said it is "mission creep" is absolutely right.

There are many in the education system who want schools to be 24-hour neighborhood centers. And if that happens, the government, not the family, will be deciding who needs what services when -- and it will be mandated.

You want to feed hungry kids? Fine. But do it through private means. Go DO IT, instead of trusting the government to handle this type of charity for you. It gives them too much power.