Thursday, June 20, 2002

More School Lunch Fraud

Via Reason's Brickbats:

Lunch Lunacy (6/20)
More than one-quarter of the students in the National School Lunch Program aren’t really eligible. Nationwide, possibly as much as $1 billion in tax money is being spent each year on feeding children who shouldn’t be on the list. Studies cite lax enforcement by the federal government. And schools have an incentive to pad the program’s rolls: The number of students receiving free or reduced price lunches helps determine how much federal and state money the school receives.

The Courier Journal article that Reason links to is very comprehensive on many of the possible fraud angles. But the one area that has been neglected by the press is how this school-lunch data distorts test-score data. If 60 percent of urban poor students score below basic in reading on the National Assessment of Education Progress, but if more than 25 percent of those students are actually misidentified as poor using school-lunch data, then the public schools are actually doing an even poorer job teaching reading than we thought. And for that 25 percent, their poor home life, can no longer be used as a scapegoat for why the public schools failed to teach them to read.

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