Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 28, 2013

MAUREEN HAYDEN: State switching 'metrics' in school funding formula

— When my children were younger, they’d bring home a big packet of forms each year from their schools, with instructions for me to fill them out so they could turn them in.

Routinely, the packet included an application for the federal government’s National School Lunch Program. Signed into law in 1946 by President Harry Truman as a “national security” measure, its goal was to provide children from poor families the nutrition they needed to sit through a day of school and learn.

Routinely, I tossed the application into the trash. My income, though modest, put me well above the 130 percent of the federal poverty level needed to qualify.  

But had I filled it out, I falsely could have reported my income with likely little repercussion, enrolled in the federal lunch program and gotten my children free meals every day.

The potential for defrauding the program — and some compelling evidence of it in places like Chicago, where well-paid school administrators were caught signing up their own children — is why the program won’t be used as an indicator of poverty for school funding in Indiana after the next school year.

Unlike the federal food stamp program (officially, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), no proof of income is required when parents apply for the federal school lunch program.

Had I applied for the program under false pretenses, I would have had to sign a form saying my reported income was accurate and the same form would have warned me that I “may be prosecuted” for “purposefully” giving false information.

But it’s a toothless warning. About the only verification mechanism in place for the program is one that requires school districts to try to verify the incomes of up to 3 percent of participants considered “error prone” — that means people who reported their incomes as just a little bit under the income eligibility limit.

Folks who don’t comply with a school’s request run the risk of getting bumped out of the program. By law, schools can’t ask people who apply for the program to provide their income information up front.

The National School Lunch Program is a national security measure. Every day, millions of children living in poverty in this nation are guaranteed not just a good meal for lunch when they’re at school, but many eat a good breakfast too, thanks to the program. Nationally, we spend about $8 billion a year on a program that feeds 31 million children every day.

But the rise in numbers are prompting questions. About 20 percent of children in the U.S. are living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources. But about 60 percent of schoolchildren nationwide are enrolled in the federal school lunch program that gives them their meals free or at drastically reduced cost.

In Indiana, about 17 percent of our children are living in poverty (a number on its own that should horrify us). About 49 percent of Indiana schoolchildren are on the federal school lunch program.

The enrollment numbers are critical for another reason: In Indiana and many other states, they’re used to determine how much extra money every school district gets, above their base per-pupil rate.

Since 2011, it’s the only metric used by Indiana to calculate the “complexity index” in the state’s funding formula. Of the $6 billion in state dollars that go to K-12 schools, about $1 billion is tied directly to the complexity index.

After next school year, the state is switching metrics: It’s going to use the number of students who get free textbooks through the state’s textbook assistance program for low-income families.

Republican legislators who pushed for the change say the program will be audited to root out fraud and diminish the temptation for parents to cheat. Let’s also make sure it doesn’t deny a meal to a hungry child in need.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • ANDREA NEAL: Fleeting canal era had lasting impact on state Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016. In 1825, the Erie Canal was completed to great fanfare. Cannon fire, parades, balls and speeches celebrated the speed and ski

    July 30, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Pence, Bayh crowd field with questions In the 2016 political landscape, a pair of the state's political big dogs -- Republican Gov. Mike Pence and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh -- have potential candidates holding their breath and waiting on them. Until Pence says otherwise, he's

    July 29, 2014

  • JEFFREY McCALL: All things Hillary are not news, just distractions This column has nothing to do with who should or will win the presidential election in 2016. It has nothing to do with partisan politics of any flavor. This column does, however, assess how television is oversaturating the "news" agenda with countles

    July 29, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: World is rising up to meet Putin's thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 28, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 28, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Happy marriages do not just happen My wife, Marylu, and I met through a mutual friend. My wife had been involved with Campus Crusade at her university, where my friend, Norman, also attended. One Christmas break, Norman invited his friends from church (including me) to a party — along

    July 27, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Truth about inflation Almost nothing in economics seems to confuse people as much as monetary inflation. That confusion leaves an intellectual void into which some of the least credible ideas of the modern world crawl.Goods and services typically have a price dictated in

    July 27, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Why congressional incumbents keep getting re-elected It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating. In June, a Gallup poll found members’ standing with the American people at a historic low for a mid

    July 25, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller