More Free Lunch Students

More children are getting a free lunch. So says the 2006 Kansas Kids Count Data Book. The Wichita Eagle reports that “more than 29 percent of Kansas school children were approved for free school meals this academic year — up from 23.7 percent six years ago.”

So why has this happened? There are several possibilities:

1. Family income in Kansas has declined, making more children eligible.
2. The income level at which a family qualifies for free lunches has increased faster than actual family incomes.
3. The number of children who qualify for a free lunch has not increased (that’s the assumption behind possibilities 1 and 2), but more children who were qualified but previously not participating has increased.

Since schools get extra money for each student in a free lunch program, that third possibility should not be dismissed. Any manager worth his salt will seek out “free” money. In this case, it could be that schools are becoming more aggressive about identifying families who might qualify, and getting them signed up.

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