When I was in the fifth grade at Burbank Elementary Schools in 1965, my late father was a barber making about $100 a week.
That was a lot more money back then than it is now but he was a single parent (my mother had passed away) raising five sons who were in the seventh, ninth and eleventh grades (one had graduated).
Back then, plate lunch was 35 cents. It was a great lunch, with a main dish (the chili was excellent), fruit, dessert and milk.
It was much more convenient for me to buy my lunch than to make it at home in our bachelor household. And I had the opportunity to work to pay for my lunch.
That’s right. I could work for 20 minutes or so in the cafeteria and save my family 35 cents while I had a delicious, nutritious lunch.
And there was no social stigma attached. Burbank, near Admiral Boulevard and Sheridan Road, was populated with students from middle-class and lower-income families. We even had some children of Cuban refugees.
We didn’t know that we were “underprivileged.”
I think I would have felt ashamed if I had been given a free lunch because I was a poor kid from a poor family.
That was my first real lesson on the value of work and on self reliance.
My oldest son, who is now 30, went to school at MacArthur Elementary School, next to Nathan Hale High School.
He was a picky eater but he loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Almost every day of school, he took a sack lunch of PB&J sandwiches, some fruit and a dessert.
He was happy as a clam.
One day, we were rushing around and we sent him off without a sack lunch and gave him some money (a dollar, I think) and told him to buy lunch.
He came home and said he had forgotten to take the money but a nice cafeteria lady gave him a lunch. The next day, we made sure he had the money to pay for the previous day’s lunch. He came home and said they wouldn’t take the money but that the lunch was free.
He had been signed up for the free lunch program.
Apparently, there was another boy at the school with our last name whose parents had signed him up and our son was piggy-backed onto that application. There was some mixup.
We told the school officials, who were very nice by the way, that we didn’t need free lunches and to please take us off the list.
Now, Tulsa Public Schools, with the help of our debt-riddled federal government, is offering free lunches and free breakfasts to all elementary students – regardless of financial need.
I am not against feeding hungry children and obviously students have a better chance to learn if they have been properly fed.
But this is outrageous.
This is socialism and fosters a dependence on the federal government on a basic need – food.
In many cases, this just props up bad parenting. As a parent of three, unless I was flat on my back, I would have done anything legal or moral to provide a home for my kids, put clothes on their backs and to feed them three square meals a day.
TPS is alleviating that responsibility from every elementary school parent – rich, poor or otherwise.
Here are some factors to consider. You don’t want to penalize children because they have irresponsible parents. And there are some families in genuine need. Some are in temporary straits and others have chronic poverty. America is the wealthiest nation in the world and we can’t have starving children in our public schools (or anywhere else).
Why not let poor kids do something to earn their lunch or breakfast? Liberals would scream that this is demeaning and discriminatory but it would teach students responsibility and self-determination. I worked my way through college and I had a work-study job in the OU Journalism School. Most of my friends didn’t have to work because their parents could afford to pay for their college but I welcomed the chance to earn my diploma.
My second son went to College of the Ozarks, a wonderful Christian College near Branson, Missouri. It is called “Hard Work U” because every student has to work at a campus job 15 hours a week plus carry at least 15 credit hours. He was a bus boy, a janitor and a supervisor.
He was so industrious, he had two part-time jobs in Branson. He graduated in four years with a degree in business with no student debt. We are really proud of him and for the rest of his life, he can point to that as a major accomplishment.
The U.S. Department of Education and Tulsa Public Schools are encouraging an entitlement culture with a blanket free lunch/free breakfast giveaway program. That should be limited to children with genuine need and the resulting savings spent on teacher salaries.