TOM WARD – Neighbors don’t want to buy your kid’s lunch

TOM WARD – Neighbors don’t want to buy your kid’s lunch

I may be changing my mind on this Daylight Savings Time business. It seems too soon now. In my case, I get up early, as do many schoolchildren. We are now pushed back into semi-darkness – if only for a few weeks – as we head to the school or office.

Do I really need the “after-work sunlight” in March? I think not. I love having it in summer for yard work, but what’s the point now?

I’m probably in the minority on this, but it’s my opinion. I’m ready to go back to how things used to be. In 2006 and prior, the change took place on the first Sunday in April, or two to three weeks later than now. (The fall change only moved one week. I have no quarrel with that).

Are they kidding?

It was very disheartening to read a story from Cumberland last week. It seems some parents in town – parents who may have plenty of money – simply don’t feel like paying for their child’s school lunches. In fact, they are bragging about it on social media, saying in essence, “let the other people in town pay for my kid’s lunch.”

The “other people in town” are out $50,000 so far.

Thankfully, School Committee member Mark Fiorillo, head of the School Committee’s policies and procedures subcommittee, has seen enough.

As we reported last week, “Some of the biggest offenders, said Fiorillo at the Feb. 28 meeting, are in the most affluent sections of town. These parents are posting on Facebook stating that they’re not paying their lunch bill balance ‘just because they don’t feel like paying for meals.’”

To be clear, this is not about helping students truly in need. This is about those who may more easily afford a school lunch.

In past years, schools offered simpler, lesser lunches to those who fell behind in payments. That was considered “lunch shaming,” though, and School Committee members (and many in the community, including me) didn’t want to embarrass children at lunchtime. So schools took their foot off the gas, and gave more time for parents to pay.

As they say, “no good deed goes unpunished.” Now, local taxpayers are on the hook not only for schools and teachers, but for lunchtime. And, according to Fiorello, parents on Facebook are claiming an entitlement they don’t deserve, and in effect, mocking their neighbors who do the right thing.

I can only imagine the “shame” that must follow a boy or girl who brings in a brown bag lunch. To have a mother make, by her own loving hands and at a much lower cost, a healthy lunch for her child...is that an embarrassment now?

In the old days, people who stole lunch money were “bullies.” Today, they brag about it on social media. Call them out, and you are branded “judgmental.” I admit, I’m lost here.

Late starts

The School Committee in Cumberland is also moving quickly now to make a later start time at the high school. Officials now point to the evidence that claims students will get more sleep and perform better. Time will tell.

My concern? I was surprised last week by the School Department’s claims for the cost of all the extra buses that will be needed. They said taxpayers would have to pony up an additional $260,000 to make this work.

Those numbers simply don’t square with what this newspaper was told in the past. The projected cost reported in 2015 was $550,000, and even more last year. Yes, things may have changed, but I doubt by that much. This week, Ethan Shorey reports the new estimate is $481,000. Considering how fluid this number is, I suggest taxpayers watch it like a hawk in the next year or two.

The bad news in Rhode Island? If it works, or even if it doesn’t and school officials end the “later opening” experiment (which is highly unlikely), taxpayers will always have to pay the higher bill. Once a town commits money to schools, the “maintenance of effort” in state law forces the town to always pay the same or more in the future. There are no protections for taxpayers; only schools.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze.

Comments

My experience with school buses and time changes is that you may lose the benefit of multiple runs by each bus, forcing you to contract for more buses. Result, higher cost.

Sodexo opens a line of credit to students on behalf of parents. No permission is given and parents have no ability to control how it’s spent. Parents have asked that blocks be put on their children’s accounts, yet students are still allowed to charge.

A few things that should be noted about the way Sodexo’s system works in the schools.
All students have a lunch number. Students just have to recite this number to get their lunch. You can imagine at the elementary level, mistakes are made quite often. At the high school, it’s an easy number to figure out and perhaps used by other students – it’s on all their schedules, which many of them keep visible on their Chromebooks. Students have been caught using other students’ lunch codes, perhaps additional security measures should be added. Imagine being able to walk into a store and recite a number and be able to get whatever you want.

I did not see the comment made by a parent on Facebook about feeling that the town should pay for their child’s lunch. I didn’t see the context it was said in either. I did see parents complain that they were unaware of their child charging. From Kindergarten through high school, parents are sending in lunches with their children, yet students can make the decision not to eat and charge their parents for it. On the one hand, I’m hoping this is being addressed at home, on the other hand, how is it legal to have an open line of credit without parents’ knowledge or permission? This should change.

My three children bring in their lunches almost every day. They’ve also been packing their own lunch since 4th grade. There is no shame. I have never used Sodexo’s system to put money on my children’s account. I have heard of the faults with it for over 11 years. When my children buy lunch, they bring in cash – and sometimes coins. That being said, I have one child with a $9.70 credit on her account. It’s not ours. I’ve told Sodexo – it’s still there.

I raised these issues while on the School Committee, there are ideas out there to address some of the issues, I hope they follow through with them. The policy is a good policy. We just need to make some changes to make it work.

Amy Goggin

For your point of view as a parent and former SC member, Amy. It sounds like the system is broken. There are far too many leaks, and they can be too easily created. I can better understand now how parents might have children not getting a lunch, but still, they are getting charged for one. It doesn't sound like the system works as it is currently configured. TW

I've been out of the school system in town for 20 or so years. I don't remember any credit cards or cards with funds loaded on them etc. We brought cash and paid for our lunch if we didn't bring lunch ourselves. If you're going to say that the elementary school kids are to young to handle the responsibility of carrying money & paying for lunch your WRONG! It was common practice a few decades ago, and along the way the kids might actually learn something about money and finances. There's no debt if they only except cash.

The DST change has to do with the amount of time before and after the longest night of the year, the winter solstice (Dec. 21 or so).

In the new system, DST ends about 7 weeks before Dec. 21, and starts up again about 10 weeks after. In the old system it ended a week earlier, as you say, but it didn't return until about 14 weeks after Dec. 21: a very lop-sided effect, much more noticeable in states further south. The new way is still lop-sided since with a strict balance, DST would return in early February.

The new way seems about right to me, and not TOO dark in the winter mornings as it was with year-round DST in the 1970s.

Aside: I realize there's now a lot of whining about the time change itself, from (mostly younger) people advocating year-round DST again, but I think they just haven't thought it through, or are unaware that we actually had year-round DST in the '70s and it wasn't so great!

You're so right, Stateline. I remember those days (the Jimmy Carter years, wasn't it? I think it was an effort to save energy during tough times.) BUT, young kids were standing waiting for school buses in pitch blackness in Rhode Island. It didn't last very long. Now in March, it's a setback, but certainly not the big deal like the mess of the past. TW

TW: Actually it was under Nixon and Ford - an energy-saving response to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 - but yes, the main concern was the morning darkness for kids on their way to school.

Tom neighbor’s pay a lot for other people's children in this state. Truly research the RI Promise scholarship. Individuals receiving 100% support through this program are from families making sufficient monies to pay their child’s way through college. Especially CCRI with its affordable tuition. Now the governor wants to include the last two years at RIC in the program. Families are required to complete the FAFSA and those individuals who truly need help receive Pell grant monies and the remaining portion is paid through the Promise Program. It is also my understanding students are paid $100.00 up to 5 times for appointments with their academic advisor. If this is accurate, it definitely should not be the practice. I do not know why the Promise program is needed when the state already has the Wavemaker Fellowship through the RI Commerece Corporation. Individuals who have earned their degrees, who work in R.I., and who are current with the loan repayments may apply and receive up to $6,000.00 a year for 4 years which is $24000.00 total (Maters Degree), $4,000.00 x 4 years or $16,000.00 (Bachelor Degree) and $1,000.00 x 4 years or $4,000.00 (Associates Degree). Granted individuals must be employed in certain career fields and the money is refunded via paid state income taxes. However, look at the monies received by Wavemaker Fellows over the past 3 years over $700,000 each year in the first two years and over $800,000 the third year. It is my personal opinion the Promise Program should be eliminated and the Wavemaker Program should be expanded to help all R.I. individuals who successfully obtained a college degree and are struggling to repay student loan debt regardless of their career field to stay and be productive citizens in this state. Tom, please fully investigate theses two state programs which are truly neighbors paying for other people’s children for as we know the state buget must be maintained and ever dollar given out through a “special” program must be made up via increased taxes in other areas because the lawmakers are never going to decrease their spending.

I wish to express my full approval of Dr. Paula G. Carmichael M.D. and my representative Jack Lyle for their courageous and moral stand on the pro-choice issue. (Letter Valley Breeze March 14, 2019)
In 1973 our Supreme Court made the right decision in "Roe v. Wade," but I found their reasoning flawed and troublesome. I found a rational justification for Roe v. Wade when I discovered a recording of a 1968 Ford Hall Forum lecture called "Of Living Death." That lecture was a response to the Humanae Vita encyclical on birth control written by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
I recommend that you listen to that most remarkable and enlightening Ford Hall Forum lecture. It consists of an 1 hour talk and an 1 hour Q&A. You can listen to that talk at: https://campus.aynrand.org/works/1968/01/01/of-living-death/page1 .