Schools consider effects of students’ financial needs

School meals provide key indicator

Jefferson City Public Schools expect more than 50 percent of its students will be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2012.

Jefferson City Public Schools expect more than 50 percent of its students will be eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in 2012. Photo by Jim Dyke.

Superintendent Brian Mitchell promised the Jefferson City school board last Monday that they will continue tracking, and talking about, a growing trend.

“Over the last 20 years, our free and reduced lunch percentage has gone from 20 percent (of all students) to, this year, over 50 percent” when the next official count is made in January, he said.

Eligibility mainly is determined by a sliding scale that is based on the federal poverty level (which is recalculated each year) and the number of children in a family.

The issue for school districts, though, is a concern that children who qualify for the subsidies may not be coming to school each day as ready-to-learn as others in their classes.

Mitchell noted: “Free and reduced lunch is an indicator across the country that students who qualify (for the assistance) are more likely to have fewer opportunities (outside school) than those students who come from non-qualifying families.”

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