I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

24 June 2011

Blah Blah Blah Nutrition vs. Budget

So the latest bugbear in the budget battle is School Nutrition Programs: in particular, those bad and rotten schools who are not getting the frightening looking, detailed, available only in a few languages* FRPL forms.

No doubt, $500,000 in uncollected lunch money is a drag.  However, if SNS wants 100% meal forms, they're going to have to stop demanding schools come up with them without support.  You want the forms?  Send out administrators and volunteers to sit with parents, to come to the after school programs, to do home and community center visits and get the forms yourself.  I managed to get a mess in at Parent Teacher Conferences this year, which necessitated getting a third set of forms, getting a list of whose forms weren't in, wasting conference time on getting the forms done, and paperwork.  These are not tasks listed in my job responsibility.

Also, SNS didn't send a letter on lunch balances until the end of the year, and if your child has already accrued a $300 debt...it's overwhelming, even for parents who can afford it.  Also, I am not going to be collecting money for SNS.  I do my level best to collect and retain all K money that comes in for lunches, and I stage this drama "Money Does Not Have a Name on It" with the custodian every year (it is a big, big hit).  If you want the money, send a letter by post biweekly and follow up with a phone call.

If these tasks are too difficult, then take the hit every year.  It's like the Lifetouch send-home-then-pay photos: I am not a cash collection service.  I do not encourage or countenance not paying, but my time needs to go into my classroom.  My credits with families are carefully built over years.  I am not spending them on becoming a collection agency.

Also, if you're going to publish these, you might take a moment to think about why southeast side schools "owe" more than, oh, Clarendon.  The blame falls unequally, and get this: it also accrues unequally.

Aaaaand don't blame me for you running out of cash for hot lunch.  This isn't a new line item.  Budget it.  Goodness knows the Central Office could pull it out of supplies and Legal Services (SFUSD: you lose so many access cases - stop litigating some of them!).

Aaaaaaand it's time for SNS to take the time to send out a damn flyer on how lunch needs to happen.  They assume the principals will do this.  Experience should show that they don't.  Everything I know about school lunch (don't touch it myself, make the kids take everything, etc.) I either knew before I started in this district or learned from the Chronicle.

*Online availability assumes computer access, SNS and friends.


Caroline said...

SNS doesn't HAVE those administrators, though. They've cut back from something like 17 to 2. That, and the issue of notifying parents about uncollected balances, is something that 555 Franklin needs to deal with. There's no easy way to send out a flyer, either (one per family in the district, with translations -- the logistics and tree-killing are daunting -- SFUSD is online-communication-impaired).

Love your KIPP and charter posts, as an early KIPP and charter skeptic.

Caroline said...

Also, there are more complicated issues with southeast schools running up big charges (and what's with Harvey Milk, BTW?). If there are a lot of low-income families who haven't turned in meal applications and can't pay for their kids' lunches, that causes the charges to run up -- it comes out of your classroom.

Who has better access to -- better communication with -- those families -- the school site staff or SNS?

It's not an easy situation, but you can see the issue here. And also, some principals don't encourage families to return the meal apps -- some have been known to discourage it.

E. Rat said...

I don't entirely disagree. My point is that:

1. These costs are well-known, so doing what's always been done with an added dose of shaming isn't going to help any;

2. SNS and 555 Franklin are both administrative offices to me. They're central services.

Moreover, given how much money is already taken out of my classroom, I'm not really opposed to feeding children.

The paperwork for FRPL is not user-friendly, frightening for undocumented immigrants, and unpleasant for people who already have to deal with quarterly California TANF/WIC appointments. Blaming school sites for SFUSD's ongoing lack of interest in collecting lunch money isn't going to make the lunch money appear.

E. Rat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm really glad to see this post. I teach at one of the schools with a huge balance. I also found it irritating. First off, hardly any of my students' parents can read them, since they aren't offered in their home languages. Secondly, a bunch of them were turned in late, because I had to help parents understand what the heck they meant. Then the kids had huge bills.

Also, a bunch of the bills for my students were erroneous. I know because I'm a SPED teacher so I bring them to the lunch line. One kid who brings his lunch every day has a $300 bill! He doesn't even go through the lunch line, and I have to prompt my non-reading students to touch their names every day, so I dunno who's fault that is.

rpnorton said...

As a board member, I'm less concerned with schools that have huge balances and high populations of non-English speaking and/or low income families. As E Rat points out, the form IS terrifying for families to fill out. It's horrible. So I'm less concerned with schools running a balance if it means that kids who otherwise would not be eating are being fed. (Though the deficit is worrisome in our current financial state).
I'm most concerned about schools that are comparably more affluent, with high percentages of parents who returned the form as "not interested." I don't want to call out those schools here, but it's easy to draw those conclusions by scrutinizing the list Dana posted.