Tuesday, November 12, 2013

School Lunch Expansion: Another Wasteful, Unaffordable Entitlement

Soon, all public schools will be allowed to enroll all students, regardless of need, into a new federal entitlement: “free” school lunches. This is the second year of a three-year rollout for the program, embedded in Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. As the 2010 law goes into effect, families keep finding the lunches aren’t necessarily healthier, new calorie limits can mean older and athletic kids go hungry, taxpayer costs have spiked, and piling on new food welfare programs continues to make more poor kids fat.

This year, 11 states qualify for the “Community Eligibility Option.” If more than 40 percent of their students are eligible for federal lunch subsidies called free and reduced-price lunch, they can put all the kids into the program. That’s right: Schools don’t even need most of their students to register in the “low-income” category to enroll every single one into food welfare.

This country just witnessed a 16-day government shutdown because we can’t afford to pay for existing entitlement programs. It’s insanity to create another entitlement for families that can afford to provide lunches for their children.

I joined Fox News recently to discuss this entitlement expansion. Besides many unprintable emailed responses, I received one from a Florida teacher:

“Supposedly hungry children would take a tray of breakfast food. They would open the pint of milk, take one sip. They would receive a beautiful piece of fruit (apple, banana, pear) and not touch it or maybe take one bite. … They did not eat 10 percent of what they received,” she wrote. “I began asking them why they weren't eating. Many stated they’d already eaten at McDonalds that morning or ate cereal at home. When I asked, ‘Why are you getting free and reduced breakfast?’ They would shrug their shoulders. They didn’t know. Just expected it.”

When this teacher attempted to reduce the waste by collecting uneaten food and encouraging kids to share, the school cafeteria refused to serve it again because it was against government regulations. For the same reason, a homeless shelter wouldn’t accept the food as a donation. So teachers began taking home bags of fruit, unopened milk containers, and other items each day.

“Finally, after about three weeks, the principal came to me and told me to stop because they had a budget they had to spend. If they didn’t spend it, it would be reduced,” the teacher wrote. “If the kids aren’t eating it and it’s going in the trash, then you don’t need that much in your budget.”

Federal school lunch (and now breakfast and an afternoon snack) is a story of big government and big agribusiness colluding to create a program that benefits them at the expense of hungry children and working adults. Food welfare became national decades ago in an agreement between rural and urban lawmakers that ensured each would continue to vote for the other’s pet entitlements: welfare and agribusiness subsidies (which raise the price of food for everybody). There is no reason local communities and states cannot supply school lunches to the truly needy—except that would make it harder for lobbyists to influence the rules to fatten their wallets, regardless of whether the rules make any sense for all kids and schools.

Our nation must make choices regarding government spending, and this should be an easy case: Let’s get back to helping only the truly needy. No child will go hungry if this program is not expanded, or if it is scaled back to let those who see these kids each day judge their nutritional needs.


Teachers are failing to let pupils know who's boss, says Ofsted chief: Faint-hearted heads failing to impose discipline 'resulting in lower standards of education'

Faint-hearted heads are failing to impose their authority on schools, resulting in low standards of  education and poor discipline among pupils, according to the chief inspector of schools.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said school leaders are too worried about offending their teaching staff, many of whom have a ‘pervasive resentment of all things managerial’, and refuse to accept their place lower down the hierarchy.

In a hard-hitting speech in central London yesterday, the head of Ofsted said teachers were also failing to make it clear to children that adults are in charge.

He said there was nothing wrong with telling children ‘Do as I ask, because I am the adult’.

But he suggested the problem stemmed from weak heads who lack the will and experience to lead from the top.

Sir Michael said: ‘Too many teachers still think that school leaders do not have the right to tell them how to teach or what to do.

‘The staff room, in their minds, is just as capable of deciding the direction a school should take as the Senior Leadership Team.

‘I’ve come to the conclusion that many of their efforts are undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial.

‘Some teachers simply will not accept that a school isn’t a collective but an organisation with clear hierarchies and separate duties.

‘What’s worse, far too many school leaders seem to believe that they don’t have a right to manage either. They worry constantly about staff reaction. They hold endless meetings to curry favour. They seem to think they cannot act without their employees’ approval.

‘Yes, you should consult with staff. But never confuse consultation with negotiation.’

Children cannot ‘thrive in a chaotic school where there is little authority’, Sir Michael said, adding: ‘Indeed, children who come from homes where there are few boundaries need more structure at school, not less.

‘Raising attainment is predicated on a culture in which heads do everything they can to reinforce not only their authority but the authority of all the staff in the school.

‘If youngsters feel that they are in a more powerful position than the teacher, the teaching assistant or the dinner lady, that they can defy authority and do so with impunity, no amount of theorising about raising attainment will make much difference.

‘There is absolutely nothing wrong in my view in saying to youngsters “Do as I ask, because I am the adult, I am older than you, I know more than you and, by the way, I am in authority over you”.’

In 2011, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced new measures to give disruptive pupils an ‘unambiguous lesson in who’s boss’, including loosening rules on the use of physical force by teachers, the right to search children for items, such as mobile phones, and increased financial penalties for parents who allow their children to play truant. But Sir Michael’s comments suggest school staff still do not have the confidence to exert their authority after years of seeing their powers eroded.

In 2011 Education Secretary Michael Gove, left, announced new measures to give disruptive pupils an 'unambiguous lesson in who's boss', while Schools Minister David Laws, right, yesterday announced £10m would be spent on doubling the number of specially trained teachers in challenging schools

He also warned too many headteachers lack vision for their school beyond a ‘natty slogan’, and don’t pay attention to detail.

‘It’s pointless concocting grand plans if the school playground is a mess, uniforms are slovenly, staff are too casual, children pay more attention to their mobile phones than to the teachers and the school reception has all the charm of the check-in desk at Ryanair,’ he said.

‘The best leaders get the details right because they know that these underpin the big issues of student achievement and progress.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said teachers needed extra training to help them understand their greater powers of discipline. He said: ‘The Government should make the guidelines even clearer.’

Meanwhile Schools Minister David Laws yesterday announced £10million was being released to more than double the number of specially trained teachers in challenging schools.


Australia: Poll reveals Queenslanders want a return to corporal punishment to deal with bad behaviour in schools

BRING back the cane - that's the call from Queenslanders fed up with bad behaviour in our classrooms.

An exclusive Sunday Mail/Seven News poll reveals a majority of people want to see corporal punishment reintroduced to state schools after an 18-year ban.

The survey also found more than one in five respondents see misbehaviour and bullying as the major issue affecting children’s education.

While the teachers’ union remains firmly opposed, Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said the results reflected a feeling in society and there was an argument that individual schools should be allowed to decide whether to use the cane.

"We are seeing such a challenge in children entering schools who have been used to getting their own way and not able to follow instructions. Maybe society is realising we should put an end to it," she said.

"I don’t think I could say we would welcome it back. But should schools, with their communities, determine what is appropriate for their school setting? I don’t think I would have an argument with that."

But State Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek is adamant this is one issue where policy will not be led by public opinion, ruling out any return to the days when unruly students were given six-of-the-best.

"I think we’ve moved on from that," he said. "There is no science or data that it (corporal punishment) will make a difference. I don’t believe hitting them with a cane or a feather-duster is the answer."

Mr Langbroek said new laws passed last month enabling other disciplinary measures such as Saturday detentions would be more effective.

More than 61,000 suspensions were handed out to public school pupils in 2012 — a third of them for "physical misconduct" -- and 1,331 expulsions.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under to Right To Information laws earlier this month revealed almost 100 incidents of violence or threats of violence including assaults on staff and the use of weapons including knives and a spear.

Queensland Secondary Principals’ Association president Norm Fuller said: "Certainly, we need strong discipline but there are other ways of doing that. I would not like to see us go back to the days of the cane — that’s not necessarily going to change behaviour."

And Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates said they wanted the ban to stay. "Teachers and principals are not enamoured by the idea of belting kids. No professional would argue there’s any benefit."

Acting Commissioner for Children and Young People Barry Salmon, a former teacher, also opposed the return of the cane.

"There are more effective ways of managing a child’s behaviour which do not include the use of physical punishment, through setting clear boundaries, consistent expectations, appropriate penalties and positive encouragement, he said.

Dr John Reddington — founder of the "Concerned Psychologists" group which has been campaigning for 12 years to make smacking illegal — said the Newman Government’s tough recent stance on law and order could be influencing the turnaround in public opinion on corporal punishment.

"But violence produces violence," he said. "The majority (of people) simply don’t understand alternative methods."

P&Cs Qld spokesman Peter Levett said he was "not necessarily surprised" by the level of support for corporal punishment but declined to state any position on the issue.

Kevin Glancy, Queensland convener of conservative lobby group CANdo, said the use of corporal punishment had made previous generations "stronger and more disciplined".

"Australia would be a better place if young people came out of schools with a sense of discipline. The streets would be safer. "People are tired of the dysfunction," he said.

Although banned in state schools since 1995, corporal punishment is still allowed in Queensland non-state schools with at least two still using the discipline method — Central Queensland Christian College and Chinchilla Christian School.

Central Queensland Christian College principal Michael Appleton declined to comment this week, stating that it was not a central issue of school life for them and they have no interest in telling other schools whether they should or should not use it.

Two years ago, he told The Sunday-Mail his school had a culture of grace and love, with physical discipline only used after warnings and time-outs

"Normally this is never needed, but sometimes there are children who are looking for the boundaries in life and will push and push until they find them.

"When they have that "ouch” moment physically, they know they’re going the wrong way.

"When using physical discipline, we take time to express our care for the child and provide reassurance afterwards.”

At Chinchilla Christian School its parent handbook for Prep to Year 7 states discipline refers to the training of mind and character in an atmosphere of love and security. "Counselling goes hand in hand with discipline.”

A position statement released by The Royal Australasian College of Physicians this year warns physical punishment may be harmful in the long term.

"Research shows that a child who experiences physical punishment is more likely to develop aggressive behaviour and mental health problems as a child and as an adult,” it says.


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