Editorial: Should schools turn down free lunch? | TribLIVE.com
Editorials

Editorial: Should schools turn down free lunch?

1453198_web1_web-schoollunch-032119
School lunch debt can also be out of the district’s control including food losses due to snow days or fewer kids buying on a given day.

It’s fine for a government official to take a stand, as long as he remembers who is picking up the tab.

Wyoming Valley West School District is in Luzerne County, and there’s little reason that it would usually attract national attention. According to measurements by Niche.com, the district’s report card is solidly average, with a B high school and elementaries that range from C+ to B-.

But twice in a week, the district ended up in the spotlight for something that isn’t about reading or writing or ’rithmetic. It was about lunch.

It started when the district sent out letters to parents warning them their children could be taken away and put in foster homes for unpaid lunch accounts.

Luzerne County officials have called those claims false, according to The Associated Press. Kids are removed for safety concerns, not as leverage for outstanding bills. Children aren’t collateral.

The district had $22,467.76 in red ink on their cafeteria books.

We know that because they subsequently were offered exactly that much money by Todd Carmichael, the CEO of La Colombe Coffee of Philadelphia.

But board President Joseph Mazur said no.

Why? Because he said the parents could afford to pay, according to Carmichael’s spokesman.

Carmichael didn’t care. He “just wants to wipe away this debt,” the spokesman said. And the board president doesn’t seem inclined.

Wyoming Valley West isn’t the only district that struggles with lunch debt. A school cafeteria isn’t a for-profit operation, and lots of districts accept donations.

The numbers are generally beyond a district’s control. There are food losses due to snow days or fewer kids buying on a given day. And, yes, some families owe money for lunches the kids ate.

But right now, Wyoming Valley West’s debt lies entirely at the feet of its president.

The families should pay their debts. But if they don’t, the weight will be felt by the taxpayers. Does Mazur have the right to reject Carmichael’s gift in the name of teaching some parents that there’s no free lunch?

It doesn’t seem so. A board’s duty is to its mission — educating children — and its constituents, and spurning help seems irresponsible to both.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.