Friday, March 11, 2011

Anchorage Seat C School Board Candidate Bob Griffin Questions The School Lunch Racket, Wonders Why 42 Percent Of ASD Students Get Subsidized Meals

On March 11th, 2011, Alaska U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is taking some criticism over her decision to vote for a bill that would have cut $2 billion from the Head Start program budget, even though Senate Democrats mustered the strength to defeat the bill. Afterwards, Senator Murkowski hastened to reassure the public via the New York Times that she's still "absolutely" a supporter of the Head Start preschool program for disadvantaged children, but that her vote was merely a marker for moving towards a greater degree in a reduction in spending. Of course, the child welfare lobby will undoubtedly whine that "Lisa hates kids", much as they do whenever any elected official proposes to hold child welfare programs just as accountable as other programs.

What Senator Murkowski has demonstrated is that she will no longer be held hostage by the child welfare lobby. And that's a good thing -- we cannot effectively stop the growth of our $14 trillion national debt unless we're willing to "think the unthinkable" and "speak the unspeakable". Nothing can be considered absolutely sacred any more -- not even veteran's benefits. But Senator Murkowski's efforts will be in vain unless we're willing to match those efforts on the state and local level by electing candidates who are willing to put anything on the table for scrutiny.

And such a candidate has stepped forward in the Anchorage School Board Seat C race. Bob Griffin, who's running for the second time in two years, is challenging incumbent Pat Higgins; Dustin Darden is the other challenger. Griffin has committed himself to fiscal responsibility and presents meticulously-researched and detailed facts and figures on his website to support his contentions. But Griffin is willing to go further than most candidates and even question those items considered "sacred cows" -- such as the school meal program.

Two media links specific to this race now available:

-- "Seven jockey for two School Board seats", Anchorage Daily News, March 26th 2011
-- "School Board Seat C candidates answer questions", Anchorage Daily News, March 25th 2011

In a December 2010 post on The Alaska Standard, Griffin wonders why, despite the fact that the poverty rate in Anchorage is very low and virtually unchanged for the last decade (around 7.3 percent), the percentage of students in the Anchorage School District receiving taxpayer-subsidized meals has risen from 26 percent in 2004-05 to 42 percent in 2009-10. Griffin notes that in contrast, although Seattle's poverty rate is a much higher 13.1 percent, only 39 percent of their students received taxpayer-subsidized meals in 2009-10.

A visit to the Anchorage School District website illustrates the scope of this racket. You will find that an ASD student from a family of four qualifies for a free meal even if the household income is as high as $35,841. The same student will still qualify for a reduced-price meal even if the household income is as high as $51,005. And "reduced-price" doesn't merely mean 30 percent or even 50 percent off; at the high school level, it's 90 percent off. You might as well just give it to them for free at that point.

Since when in hell is $51,005 a "poverty" income? $51,005 isn't exactly chump change; it's still fairly serious money. A family of four can easily get by on such an income if they spend their money wisely. And they don't have to live in a hovel either, not even in Anchorage's overpriced and overtaxed housing market. The bottom line -- $51,005 is NOT poverty. If worse comes to worse, students can pack their own lunches and save money. There is of course the rare exception of such a family having ongoing catastrophic expenses through no fault of their own, and we can make an exception for them, but it is presumptious and ludicrous to assume that every family of four making $51,005 is equally in poverty. And as far as free meals go, the only students who should be getting free meals are those officially classified as "homeless".

My suggestion: The current threshold for the reduced-price meals should be abandoned, and the current threshold for free meals ought to be re-defined as the new threshold for reduced-price meals. Only homeless students should get free meals.

Has Pat Higgins questioned the school meal racket? Nope. What about Dustin Darden? Ditto. Only one candidate in the Seat C race has been willing to question this sacred cow -- to "think the unthinkable" and "speak the unspeakable". And that candidate is Bob Griffin. Pat Higgins represents business as usual -- Bob Griffin represents business the way it ought to be. If you want a leaner, meaner, and more accountable school district, Bob Griffin is the ONLY CHOICE for Seat C.

And you can further magnify the effectiveness of your vote for Bob Griffin by also choosing a like-minded candidate in the Seat D race -- Treg Taylor. More information about candidates and ballot propositions at the following links:

-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Candidates HERE
-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Ballot Propositions HERE
-- Anchorage 2011 Municipal Election List of Candidate Forums HERE


  1. 2 things- first, unless this author has a family of four, in anchorage, living off $51,000, then they gave no place to say anything. Please poll those in need to see how desperate they are for help. Second, I was under the notion that the free and reduced meal program is national- meaning school board has no say and anchorage tax payers pay nothing out if pocket. Please clarify. Thank you.

  2. Anonymous - The school meal program is Federally-funded, but where do you think those funds come from? Taxpayers -- including those from Anchorage.

    Bob Griffin's point is that the percentage of qualifying students has risen over the past 5 years with no corresponding increase in the poverty rate. The Anchorage School District has offered no explanation for this dichotomy.

    And finally, if you re-read my post, I did account for those who may be in need because of ongoing catastrophic expenses, and I advocated making a provision for them. But it is true that many people get into financial trouble through THEIR OWN FAULT. They buy more home than they need, they buy oversized and overpriced big screen TVs, they rack up excessive consumer debt. Why should we continue to subsidize those who get into debt through their own misbehavior? It's like the proposal to transform the Red Roof Inn in Fairview into a halfway house for inebriates; no problem if a sobriety requirement is imposed, but unacceptable if drinking is permitted on the premises. You cannot save people IN THEIR SINS; mercy cannot be allowed to rob justice.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify this issue further.