Breakfast matters

August 15, 2008 12:00 am

The Baker School District has been taking dollars from its classrooms and putting them in its cafeterias for years now.

We agree with Superintendent Don Ulrey that this trend should not continue.

The district diverted $94,000 from its general fund to offset the deficit in the food service budget during the 2007-08 school year.

The district ran up $137,000 in additional general fund subsidies in previous years.

Given those numbers, we think the district was warranted in boosting lunch prices by a dime for the coming school year, and adding a nickel to the cost of an extra carton of milk.

But we don't think the district needed to cancel its free breakfast service, which was for the previous two years available to all students except those at the high school. The breakfasts were, in most cases, served in classrooms rather than in cafeterias, which, along with the can't-be-beat price, made the meal popular.

Breakfast, as we all know, is the most important meal of the day. The district's free, in the classroom service is an ideal way to ensure students' stomachs aren't rumbling as their brains begin another day of learning.

This year the district will serve breakfasts in cafeterias. Elementary and middle school students will pay $1 per breakfast, and high schoolers $1.25.

Yet according to district records, lunches, not breakfasts, are largely responsible for the food service shortfall.

The deficit in the breakfast program amounted to about $3,800 during the 2007-08 school year, according to the district.

The school board could have saved slightly more than that had it given Ulrey and 10 other administrators cost-of-living increases of 2.5 percent rather than 3 percent for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Probably the board could find the money elsewhere in the budget, too — $3,800 is a pittance compared with the district's general fund of almost $17 million.

The district's plan to encourage parents to fill out forms to determine if they qualify for free or reduced-price meals could help to trim the general fund subsidy, as well. The more students who sign up, the more money the district receives as reimbursement.