July 20 2012

School Lunch Scam—Chicago Style

Vicki E. Alger

A dozen Chicago Public School officials have been charged with falsifying forms to get free lunches for their children—abusing a program meant for low-income students. As the Chicago Tribune reported:

Twelve Chicago Public Schools principals and assistant principals have been removed from their positions for allegedly falsifying forms for free and reduced lunches for their own children, the school district and Inspector General’s office announced. … “The investigation by the (inspector general) has uncovered continuing fraud in this program and we will not stand for any lapse in ethical judgment by our school leaders,” CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said. … The findings come on the heels of a similar investigation last summer, in which 14 employees at CPS’ North Grand High School were found to have falsified school lunch forms to improperly qualify for free or reduced lunches. Five of those employees were terminated by the Chicago school board, two have resigned and one case is still pending before the Illinois State Board of Education. Six employees have been suspended or are still facing disciplinary actions, district officials said.

Elsewhere EAGnews explained:

The $11 billion federal program gives free school lunches to children of four-member families with an income less than $29,055. Reduced lunches are given to families that earn less $41,348. The program is essentially run on the honor system, meaning that unscrupulous adults can pilfer the program at will. …To get a sense of the greed involved in this case, consider this: Two of the accused CPS administrators – a principal and an assistant principal – are married, and have a combined income of nearly $250,000.

Government-run bureaucracies—including schools—are expensive, opaque, and in too many instances untrustworthy. Better to direct public assistance to individuals in genuine need through tax-free savings accounts. Let parents use those funds to purchase food for meals they think are best for their children instead of wasting those funds on frauds.

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