Daily Bread for 8.26.21: Waukesha School District Fails Even Before the Day Begins | FREE WHITEWATER
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Daily Bread for 8.26.21: Waukesha School District Fails Even Before the Day Begins

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 86. Sunrise is 6:14 AM and sunset 7:38 PM, for 13h 23m 53s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 83.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets at 5:30 PM.

 On this day in 1883, the eruption of Krakatoa begins its final stage.


 In Waukesha, the local school board has voted against participating in the federal government’s free school-meal program. Emily Files reports Waukesha Is Only Wisconsin School District To Opt Out Of Federal Free Meals Program:

But Waukesha school board members oppose the idea. At a May meeting, Karin Rajnicek said families that can afford to feed their children should.

“I had three kids, I had them and so I’m going to feed them. I feel like that’s the responsibility of the adult,” Rajnicek said. “I feel like this is a big problem, and it’s really easy to get sucked into and become spoiled and think, it’s not my problem any more, it’s everyone else’s problem to feed my children.”

Waukesha district CFO Darren Clark agreed, saying he doesn’t want families to become dependent on free meals.

“That’s my fear is that it’s the slow addiction of this service,” Clark said. “There is that concern — free is a funny thing.”

The board voted unanimously in June to return to the National School Lunch Program, which requires families to fill out an application to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Board members said going back to this program will still provide help to the families who need it.

The decision alarmed people working to keep kids from going hungry. Waukesha County Food Pantry Executive Director Karen Tredwell says school meals are a vital source of nutrition for children. She argues that participating in the federally-funded program has no downside for the community.

“My concern is that not only are they not participating in a program that could greatly benefit their students, there is not going to be any positive benefit to taxpayers in the county if they don’t participate,” Tredwell says.

As Krista Ruffini writes in Schoolwide free-meal programs fuel better classroom outcomes for students, the case for free meals (in the easiest way possible) is overwhelming:

The federal school-meals program is the largest form of nutritional assistance to school-age children, accounting for half of the food consumption among children who participate and subsidizing free or reduced-price meals for more than 22 million students in the 2018-19 school year (approximately 40% of children ages 5-17). Known as the National School Lunch Program, it has substantially changed over the past decade: Historically, only students from low-income families received free meals, but schoolwide free-meal programs—in which all students in a school receive free meals regardless of their own families’ income—are becoming increasingly common. In the 2018-19 school year, more than one-quarter of students attended a school that provided breakfasts and lunches to all students at no cost.

….

This framework allows me to compare changes within a district or school before and after CEP adoption, relative to other areas that eventually participated in CEP but did so in a different year. There are three takeaways from this work:

First, schoolwide free meals increase the number of school breakfasts and lunches served. Using administrative data collected from state departments of education on the number of meals served at each school, I find that this measure increases in schools where many students became newly eligible for free meals after CEP, as well as in schools that previously had high rates of free-meal eligibility. This pattern is consistent with the schoolwide nature of free-meal programs reducing stigma and facilitating greater access, as found in other work.

Second, schoolwide free meals improve math performance in districts where relatively few students qualified under the income-based program. Within these districts, elementary and Hispanic students experience the largest academic improvements. Figure 1 summarizes how free meals through CEP affect math performance among different groups of students in these districts with low free-meal participation before CEP. In this figure, the height of the bars shows the estimated impacts and the vertical lines shows the 90% confidence interval. I find that overall math performance improved about 0.016 standard deviations. Elementary students improved more than average, about 0.020 standard deviations. Finally, Hispanic students’ performance improved the most among all racial/ethnic groups—about 0.034 standard deviations.

F1 Selected estimates of schoolwide free meals on math performance

Third, schoolwide free-meal programs significantly reduce suspensions among white male elementary students. In work co-authored with Nora Gordon, we find CEP reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions among white male elementary students by approximately 17%. Our estimates for other elementary subgroups suggest fewer suspensions, but these results are smaller in magnitude and generally insignificant.

That improved math performance and fewer suspensions are found in areas and among subpopulations with low free-meal participation before CEP is consistent with the nature of the program. Specifically, schoolwide free-meal programs increase access for families who don’t qualify under the income-based formula—both families with income above 130% of the poverty line, as well as families that do not complete income questionnaires that determine eligibility.

These conservatives of Waukesha express concern for government spending, but they lack the judgment to distinguish between kinds of spending. The Waukesha School District’s chief financial officer sanctimoniously decides that children’s meal programs are the place to draw the line.

Narrow of mind and small of heart.


What It Takes to Fly The C-17 Globemaster III:

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[…] before school might lead to a kind of ‘slow addiction’ to the program). See Waukesha School District Fails Even Before the Day Begins and Waukesha Schools Reverse Course on Meals […]