Gov. Steve Sisolak hasn’t had much luck improving Nevada’s education outcomes, but he has successfully ensured that taxpayers subsidize school lunches for the children of millionaires.
Students in Clark County are officially back to school. This year, every student is eligible to receive “free” school meals. Sisolak’s office gushed that the state “invested” $75 million to provide food for public school students throughout Nevada.
The implication is that the governor has taken important steps to protect impoverished schoolchildren who might otherwise go hungry. But that’s not the case. Once upon a time, the free- and reduced-lunch program provided meals for low-income students. Eligibility was limited by income.
Whether or not you agree that the public schools should operate as social welfare agencies, the intent of the program is understandable. If parents can’t afford to pay for food, the child suffers — and so does learning. Because children are already at school, it’s efficient to deal with the issue in that setting.
But if low-income families already receive free or reduced cost meals, why did Nevada spend $75 million? Answer: to expand the program to children who weren’t previously eligible. Translation: Taxpayers must now provide meals for students whose families can afford to provide meals.
“We need to set up students for success — they shouldn’t worry about if they will be able to eat lunch with their friends, or go hungry during school,” Gov. Sisolak said. “This program also puts money directly back into parents’ pockets — offering a little relief as we get into the year.”
But the children of middle- or upper-class parents — or the kids of multimillionaires — are in no danger of going hungry. Why must taxpayers put money in their pockets? That’s not usually considered a progressive goal. In this case, however, the idea is to erase the “stigma” on low-income children who receive free lunches by giving all students the same consideration. Never mind about those who are forced to foot the bill.
This is a typical example of how liberals approach entitlements. Even modest and well-intentioned programs see their eligibility expand until the constituent class gets large enough that it becomes impossible to repeal or reform the handout. Undoubtedly, there will be a push to make this permanent. But that’s a bad idea. The program is scheduled to end after the 2024-25 school year. End it sooner. Middle-class and wealthy families can provide food for their own children.