Friday, August 03, 2012

Anchorage School Board Member Don Smith Decries Proposed Expansion Of Free School Meals In The Anchorage School District

Update August 6th: The Anchorage School Board voted 6-1 to accept the contract to provide more free school meals; Don Smith was the lone dissenter.

The Anchorage School District is proposing to increase the number of free meals given out to students, and Anchorage School Board member Don Smith is crying foul.

The district wants the school board to approve a contract for boxed meals at 12 after-school programs for at-risk kids. Worse yet, these are after-school meals. The district now provides such meals at five schools. The cost for 12 schools would be $526,915. The 12 schools are all Title 1 schools with concentrations of students from low-income families; they include the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School, Begich Middle School, and Fairview, Mountain View, Muldoon, North Star, Russian Jack, Williwaw, Willow Crest, Wonder Park, Ptarmigan and Taku elementary schools. The proposal is outlined in ASD Memorandum #19, which is on the agenda for the August 6th school board meeting. Screenshot of the breakout from the ASD Memo below:

Don Smith is concerned that the district is moving into a program that expands the entitlement mentality in our society. He notes that even though the feds reimburse the district, the feds are also financed by tax dollars, and this expenditure can't help but add to the national debt. Specifically, Smith said "Philosophically, I have a real problem with it. I think our country's gone to hell in a hand basket. We're just about to become Greece." Smith is also running for the Republican nomination for the State Senate District H seat against Clint Hess; the lone Democrat is Berta Gardner. But Smith says he's speaking as a school board member and not as a legislative candidate.

School board president Jeannie Mackie said she hasn't heard of any other opposition to expanding the after-school meal program. Absentee board member Pat Higgins, who participates in school board meetings via teleconference, said 45 percent of the district's children are economically disadvantaged. However, there's a big difference between being merely "economically disadvantaged" vs. being poor or destitute. The emphasis of the social safety net has shifted from merely ensuring survival to replicating a middle class lifestyle.

If so-called "economically disadvantaged" children are getting free breakfasts, lunches, and dinners from ASD, what incentive have their parents to work to better their economic conditions or to manage their existing resources more optimally? How many of these parents spend their limited resources on plasma TVs or X-boxes instead of food for their kids?

This issue also surfaced during the 2011 municipal election campaign, when school board candidate Bob Griffin revealed that 42 percent of ASD students were getting subsidized meals. The costs of the reduced-price meals are laid out HERE and are but a fraction of the full price. ASD no longer publishes income thresholds for the free and reduced-price meals on their website, but Alaska DEED has the 2012-13 thresholds on their website in Microsoft Word format. If you don't have Word or Works, I've provided a screenshot below. In reading the guidelines, you will see that a student from a family of four qualifies for reduced-price meals even if the annual family income is as high as $53,317.

Folks, $53,327 is NOT poverty, unless the household has some unusual circumstances like a special needs child.

Of course, telling ASD not to implement a meal program that's being paid for by someone else is difficult, until we remember that WE'RE the "someone else". The federal funds come from OUR tax dollars. So the real problem lies with Washington. Changing the thinking in Washington will work better than telling ASD not to accept a funded school meal expansion.


  1. It sounds like the ADULTS are to blame, not the children who are in no position to tell their parents how to spend their money. Furthermore, how can you punish the kids - especially when they are participating in extra-curricular activites, staying after school to learn and educated themselves - by not providing meals for them. What will that teach them? Who cares if we are paying for children to eat, we are already paying for every X-Ray scan provided by TSA in airports across the country. Why should we punish children for their parents blunder's?

  2. This is a wonderful and friendly school. Because it is a bit small, we don't have as much sports as other schools, but we can try out for any teams in other schools. It is student-led and challenging
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