Free Meals Waste Of Tax Dollars

Hundreds of Ohio County children whose parents can afford easily to pay for their school breakfasts and lunches will be getting them free this year. That is a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money that could have gone instead to improving local schools.

Don’t call the Ohio County schools office to complain, however. It wasn’t local officials’ idea.

County board of education members heard about it last week. Child Nutrition Coordinator Renee Griffin explained nearly 1,200 students in four local schools will participate, through a new federal program. It provides funds for free breakfasts and lunches at schools where at least 40 percent of students are certified by the state to receive free meals.

Schools have provided free and reduced price meals for years, for children whose families meet income criteria. But this is new. Now, all students, regardless of family resources, will get the free food.

Thirty-five of the state’s 55 county school systems are participating in the program – with 90,000 students. That will consume an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money.

No doubt someone in Washington theorizes giving away millions of dollars’ worth of food every month to children whose parents don’t need help is a good idea. But throughout West Virginia, educators know of proven ways they could spend that much money to help students – but they don’t have the money.

At this point the program doesn’t cost participating school districts anything. That makes it easy to gain their agreement to take the money and hand out the free food.

A better idea – assuming the federal government had plenty of money, which it does not – would have been to provide no-conditions grants the local school districts could have used as they saw fit. But that is not how the federal government works. Bureaucrats in Washington decide how to spend our money to improve schools. That is one reason why so little improvement occurs.