EDITOR'S DESK: Thank you for breakfast, Mommy... I mean teacherBy Kenyon Jordan
There are things in the world that no one can oppose.
Like breakfast for children.
So let me state right from the start that I really do want children to have breakfast.
I just have this little problem. I don't like buying food for other people's kids.
And that's really what's going on with this new Breakfast after the Bell program -- which is starting this month at four Westside schools -- after we blow aside the fog of rhetoric about “full tummies” and “community building” and “level playing field” and whatever other feel-good spin that proponents want to put on it. Taxpayers in general are picking up the tab for parents who are primarily deadbeats.
Oh, sure, there are families here and there in desperate straits. School officials know who they are. Put them in touch with the appropriate charities or social welfare.
But apparently that type of solution is much too simple in these days of the welfare state.
A District 11 video about the breakfast program features a mother, who may not be a deadbeat herself, but it still bothers me the way she prattles on about how much it's helping her personally that the district feeds her son. “It's nice not to get him up a little early and shuffle breakfast in him,” she rejoices, as her youngster stands beside her in front of the camera. “This has saved our mornings like you wouldn't believe.”
The schools themselves don't see a problem. Leading up to the mother's speech on the video is a comment from Queen Palmer Elementary Principal Julie Fahey: “We talked to parents about how this is cost-saving. They don't have to provide breakfast for their child at home. They don't have to have those arguments in the morning.”
Well, thank you so much, Madame Principal. Putting aside your challenged economics (that there's a “savings” when in fact everyone's paying for it), you're apparently telling us that not only does Breakfast in the Classroom solve food shortages, it fixes household discord. You probably would have felt real uncomfortable in our home, back in the days when we were raising our two sons. You see, Therese and I actually enjoyed being there with them in the morning, helping them with breakfast and then sitting with them and talking about their day ahead. The night before, Therese would have made them nice lunches, including snacks they might have if they got hungry at other times. As they got older, we even showed them how to prepare breakfast for themselves, for those days they had to get going early or we couldn't be there.
And you know what, Madam Principal and all of you in the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature that passed this bill? I'd venture to say there were and still are thousands of parents like us throughout District 11. I know the popular trope is that only the “rich” can afford to do what I described above. Have you ever watched birds? They make sure their young are fed. If there's not enough, the parents go hungry. I'm not saying that happened with us, but it got close at times. As you might imagine, someone as outspoken as yours truly could get crosswise with certain bosses back in the day by not always touting the party line. So yeah, I found myself unemployed at times. We cut our expenses, avoided credit-card debt, didn't buy new cars, didn't buy cell phones, didn't eat out much, didn't hang out in bars, didn't do drugs. Etc.
One of the odd aspects of this law is that it puts pressure on the school districts to “sell” the program. The Legislature didn't mandate sufficient funds, so the district can only afford it if nearly all the kids qualifying for free/reduced lunches participate. And federal reimbursements are only provided when those kids take meals (lunches or breakfasts). Thus, the breakfasts need to be in the classroom. Captive audience and all. When the program was in the cafeteria before school, a lot of the kids would blow it off, even the ones who could get it for free. One principal we talked to noted that many of the kids preferred to play outside instead. The Deep Thinkers among us like to use terms such as “social stigma,” but if anyone is truly starving, they will eat. The statistics by the hunger-crisis crowd even include people with "anxiety" about food, not actual lack of it. So how much hunger is there, really?
Of course, the financial drag on the program, as District 11 has already complained to the Legislature, is that Breakfast after the Bell gives the meals free even to the kids whose parents earn too much to qualify for handouts. But the district is missing the point. When the breakfast is free for everyone, there's no social “stigma”… for anybody. Happiness abounds. We're all deadbeats.
In the meantime, you parents out there (or parents to be), I hope you're keeping track. Because this kind of stuff happens incrementally. First came the lunches, then came the breakfasts, now the breakfast expansion. Look ahead 5, 10, 15 years. Is dinner next? (I understand that's already happening in some parts of the country.) “And gosh darn,” says a school principal on a District 11 hologram video in the year 2040, “are government taxes getting too high for you to afford housing your kids?” (Not that he/she would ever explain it that way.) “Well, thanks to the 2,352nd executive change to Obamacare, we're going to be moving your children into the new apartments we built next to your school. Hey, as a matter of fact, your kid just called me 'Mommy.' But that's OK, because think about all the costs you're saving. And the arguments you're not having. A perfect world.”
(Posted 4/4/14; Opinion: Editor's Desk)