New State Rule for Meal Program Risks $200 Million for LAUSD
LA School Report | December 2, 2013
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A new state rule asking school districts to verify students eligible for the Free and Reduced Price Meal program is causing alarm within LA Unified, which must document the status of more than 138,000 students or risk losing $200 million in state funding.
The rule affects students at nearly 400 high-poverty campuses, all of whom automatically qualify for subsidized lunches under federal rules that require parents to fill out paperwork only once every four years. By the new state rules, a district must submit written verification for each student each year.
While the district said in a press release today that the state requirement conflicts with federal regulations, district officials are nonetheless scrambling to collect the paper applications required by the state.
L.A. Unified has one of the highest concentrations of low-income students in California, with more than 80 percent living at or below the poverty line. Because California’s new Local Control Funding Formula provides significant additional state funding for low-income students, a failure to document each student directly would reduce funding to the district.
“We are not asking for anything extra, only our fair share,” said Superintendent John Deasy. “Public education lifts children out of poverty. LAUSD needs every dollar that we are entitled to, based on the number of high-poverty students and not limited to those whose parents or guardians are required to fill out a verification form. All poor children should be included.”
According to the release, the inclusion of these students “could have been easily achieved if the state had decided to use federal rules for recognizing these students and their families, without the nightmare and expense of printing, distributing, following up, and collecting 138,275 paper applications in the next two months.”
To ensure that all students are counted, the district has implemented multiple outreach efforts, including efforts to contact schools and student families. The paper form must be completed and returned by Friday, with a follow-up outreach campaign to collect the remaining applications beginning in mid-month. The district is attempting to collect forms for 138,275 eligible students.