From the NY Times:
Of the 2,200 students at Intermediate School 61 in Corona, Queens, 86 percent receive free cafeteria lunches. Some others pay a reduced price, and some are supposed to pay full price.
But not all of their parents pay what they are supposed to, and recently, the school’s principal, Joseph Lisa, has been spending a lot of time trying to collect money from them.
He has cornered them in the hallways. He has offered them gentle reminders after school meetings. He has called them and sent them letters suggesting payment plans for debts that might amount to $20 or $30.
“We give them little pieces of paper saying, ‘This week you owe $5, $3, 50 cents,’ but as soon as we collect it from one parent, there’s another who’s falling behind,” Mr. Lisa said.
The city used to pick up the unpaid tabs. Since 2004, it has absorbed at least $42 million in unpaid lunch fees.
But that is a luxury it can no longer afford, according to the Department of Education, which has weathered several rounds of budget cuts, with more still to come. So it has been telling principals to collect overdue lunch money or risk having it docked from their school budgets.
Of the city’s 1,600 schools, 1,043 owe a collective $2.5 million to the Education Department for meals served in the first three months of this school year. That puts them on track to be $8 million behind by the end of the school year.
Let them either bring lunch to school or pay. Problem solved. Stop giving everything away for free. They can't pay $1.50 per day for lunch but they can afford to hang out after school with their friends at McDonald's? I know it's not what the machine wants but how about consumers pay for what they consume for once? We supposedly feed the kids so they are more likely to succeed. 75% of kids in public school qualify for free or 25-cent lunches, yet 75% of them also graduate high school not knowing basic reading, writing and arithmetic. Let's stop throwing money down the drain.