JBC Petty School Lunch Partisanship?

THURSDAY UPDATE: Reporter Tim Hoover of the Denver newspaper circled back with the Republican members of the Joint Budget Committee about this vote in an excellent blog post today–big follow-through ups for Mr. Hoover, but we don’t think the answers from Rep. Cheri Gerou and Sen. Kent Lambert about this vote are going to go over very well. In fact, Lambert’s canned response about “personal responsibility,” and how he can make sure his children are fed, and all those wonderful churches out there feeding the poor…would seem to confirm the worst case discussion below.

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We’re trying to get more information about a vote yesterday by the Joint Budget Committee–yesterday evening, we saw this Tweet from one ColoradoNewser, an emergent source of Gold Dome scuttlebutt on the Twitters:



We did some checking on this, and we were forwarded this JBC brief, containing a staff recommendation to indeed approve an expenditure of around $30,000 for subsidized meals:

Staff Recommendation: Staff recommends increasing the appropriation for the Start Smart Nutrition Program from the Start Smart Nutrition Program Fund by a total of $124,229, including the authority to spend $30,000 from the current year General Fund appropriation to the Fund, along with $94,229 from the balance available in the Fund (from an available fund balance of $253,547). The additional funds are intended to: (1) address a $26,019 over expenditure that occurred in FY 2009-10; and (2) eliminate the need for co-payments to be collected from children eligible for and receiving reduced price breakfasts under the federal school lunch program.

Staff Analysis: Background Information: Senate Bill 07-59 created the Start Smart Nutrition Program to eliminate the amount paid by students participating in the federal school breakfast program who are eligible for reduced-price meals ($0.30 per meal). Other objectives of the program include increasing the number of students who consume a nutritious breakfast each day, decreasing statewide health care costs by improving the health of school-age children, and lessening students’ risk of obesity by providing nutritious breakfast options…

Based on continued increases in the number of students eligible for reduced price meals and participating in the school breakfast program, the costs of the program have increased every year. In FY 2010-11, the Department projects expenditures to total $768,210. Thus, the Department requires a total of $794,229 spending authority from the Start Smart Nutrition Program Fund in FY 2010-11. If this additional spending authority is not provided, the Department will need to notify school districts that state funds will fall about 16 percent short of the amount needed to subsidize reduced priced meals this school year, [Pols emphasis] and districts will need to notify families that co-payments will be required for reduced price meals for a portion of the school year (probably the last six or seven weeks of the school year).

From our read of this staff recommendation, the Start Smart Nutrition Program exceeded its spending authority by a little less than $30,000–a small fraction of its $670,000 authority–apparently due to an error, and as a result the State Controller docked the program’s spending authority by the same amount for the current year. At the same time, demands on the Start Smart Nutrition Program have increased (fully expected in a recession), and between the need to cover the overexpenditure and the increased demand for the program, JBC staff recommended a total increase of just under $125,000.

Like we said a few days ago about another spiked vote in the JBC, their committee-recommended bills must pass unanimously. And as our friend ColoradoNewser reports above, this vote appears to have split down the 3-3 partisan line in the JBC: meaning it’s dead there, though another committee can take it up. You can read above that the consequences of failing to approve this modest expense are quite stark: a 16% shortfall, forcing low-income families to make a co-payment on their meals for part of the school year.

Folks, we just came through an election season where seemingly routine and innocuous votes were transformed into legislators more or less wanting to eat your children, not feed them. So our questions here would seem to be obvious: did Reps. Cheri Gerou and Jon Becker, along with Sen. Kent Lambert, just stone-cold vote against school breakfasts for poor kids? And if they did, was it over a technical error, or the fact that more poor kids need breakfast?

We’d like to believe it was the former, although that still shows a certain lack of compassion–more than enough for a nasty 527 mailer next year. But after everything Becker and Lambert have said about their plans this year for the JBC, you can’t rule out the latter either.

27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    Can’t have the the ag producer subsidies cut, so we gotta cut somewhere.

  2. ProgressiveCowgirlProgressiveCowgirl says:

    Seriously though. That free/reduced lunch is the only meal many low-income children eat all day during parts of the school year.

    Watch them block school lunch funding, then complain when low-income students’ standardized testing scores aren’t rising. As Scott Adams might say, the malnourishment will continue until test scores improve!

  3. Ralphie says:

    There’s more than enough money to feed starving kids.

  4. Thorntondem says:

    Republican 2012 campaign message.

  5. Craig says:

    As you all know, I am not a Republican, and haven’t been for years.  I am also not a “starve the kids” person and recognize the value of having breakfast for poor kids.  However, based upon the tweet from the paper which shall not be named, it seems like to me that the cost of this to a poor child is $10 per year.  That’s essentially a $10 co-pay for nine month’s of breakfast.  I just don’t see the big deal, especially when the budget is like it is.

    • droll says:

      Seriously.  I think the hardest bit is that most people on the food program have more than one kid.  If they’d been asking for $.50 a week or something all along, maybe.  But asking a family close to homelessness to come up with $40 is going to increase the line at the Catholic Charities eviction help.

      I think, even with the budget like this, that these aren’t the people to jerk around.

      Tell you what, I’ll donate $1K to this program if 29 of my fellow posters will.  It’s just that big of a deal.  Not to me really, but to these kids.

      • redstateblues says:

        I think many of us who are privileged enough to have food on our plates every day have a hard time empathizing with people who can barely feed their children, but as progressive cowgirl pointed out above, these two meals are all that some of these kids eat in a day.

        Not only that, but the meals these kids are eating are barely nutritious. In the morning they might get some powdered eggs and a milk carton, and at lunch they get a hamburger or a tiny bowl of mac & cheese. But I guess when middle class families are cutting down their restaurant trips from three nights a week to maybe one night a week, it’s kind of hard to understand that kind of poverty.

      • ClubTwitty says:

        Sure, it’s a worthy program we should support–and I do.  That’s why I have joined this shared endeavor called government. Lambert and his ilk are an embarrassment to the species.    

  6. Randi says:

    What priorities our representative show, bonuses to associates, but nothing for the kids!

    Have they forgotten that we are still in a recession, many people/families are still homeless, unemployed, etc. thus how do they expect these children to eat, as yes many receive their only meals at SCHOOL. When you are unemployed, what is a parent supposed to do, allow your children to starve while the Ed. Boards receives bonueses totally over $100,000. Wow imagine how many hungry kids could have been fed with those unnecessary bonuses!

    And BTW: state reps, did you not see or abide by the NEW LAW, requiring schools to provide healthier foods, written primarily to provide healthier food to the hungry kids. (yes, I was in WA. DC with Chefs Move to Schools, they were not?) SO are you now purposedly ignoring that law. I bet not many reading this know that YOU, are part of forcing smaller rural districts to pay more for the same food that larger districts pay.

    Therefore, We can only pray for these ignorant (knowing better but looking the other way) representatives that they do not get run over by RTD, or AMTRAK, leave their spouse struggling to pay off depts and med bills, and leave their children fending on a street for food, or robbing a store to gain that .30 cents per day for the priviledge to eat and become prepared for being educated in the day ahead!!

    You stated personal responsibility, but don’t you have a legal responsibility in accordance with the new Nutritional Law/bill?  

  7. ohwilleke says:

    poor people actually exist.

    I have certainly met suburbanites of that opinion and Lambert’s comments about personal responsibility seem to reflect that sentiment.

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