Monday, September 11, 2017

Actually, There IS Free Lunch

That's true for NYC's schoolchildren. No more getting free lunch forms and letting all your friends know your home income is below poverty level. No more paying half price and letting them know you're close to it.

This poses a problem for my school, and I presume, a whole lot of others. Why bother filling out a lunch form if lunch is free anyway? Will there even be one, now that it makes no difference? And what are we going to do about Title One funds, assuming Betsy DeVos doesn't donate them to her good friends at Walmart?

The article says 75% of city students were eligible for free lunch. Up until now, Title One has been distributed school by school. I don't recall offhand the percentage our school needs to hit to receive it, but it seems like around 60%. In Staten Island it's closer to 40%. It's ridiculous that children in Queens have a higher threshold than children in Staten Island.. Evidently there's less poverty in SI somehow, so their schools might not qualify otherwise.

I've seen a lot written about so-called Fair Student Funding. Aside from making principals have to think twice about hiring experienced teachers, it has another major drawback. That is the fact that the city does not issue many schools funding it calls "fair." Schools get varying percentages of it, which by its own definition is unfair.

I know that schools that don't get Title One are struggling to keep up. They don't have enough teachers to keep up with exploding class sizes. In our building, being Title One, we probably have enough money, but we haven't got any space. In any case, without Title One, we'd probably need to excess teachers and then we wouldn't have enough personnel. It's a ridiculous situation.

The city is a huge district, with all sorts of rules we have to follow. We have not only the UFT Contract, but all sorts of Chancellor's Regulations. (Unless of course, you're a charter, in which case you take the money and do any damn thing you want with it.) A whole lot of things are centralized. Yet every year, the administration of our school puts an inordinate amount of energy in collecting lunch forms. We've made Title One by the skin of our teeth the last few years.

It boggles my mind that we need to find a higher percentage of students than other boroughs. How can aid revolve around which borough you reside in? Why on earth do SI kids need help more than Queens kids? Why on earth are there different thresholds in different boroughs? I recall Queens being the highest. What possible rationale could there be for Queens students getting effectively less support?

It's great that the city is giving free lunch to all children. But if they're going to do that, they ought to distribute Title One equally as well. The city gets a big federal grant, and who knows what it does with undistributed funds? All city schools need all the help they can get, and it's time we dropped the insane formulas.

If all city kids need free lunch, they all need funding too. It's time to take another look at "Fair Student Funding," another look at Title One,  and it's time to find a system that works for New York City, rather than just Bloomberg's held-over thugs.

Also, Mayor de Blasio, it's well past time you showed all of Bloomberg's leftovers the door.
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