Changes Made In Free-Reduced Cost Lunch Program
July 29, 2013 — Indiana schools that receive extra funding based on the number of students enrolled in the federal free and reduced lunch program will now receive it based on the number of students receiving state textbook assistance, a change some lawmakers say could reduce fraud. Olivia Covington of TheStatehouseFile.com reports.
The new formula will take effect in 2015 and will give schools extra money for each student who receives free textbooks from the state. The state has been using enrollment in the lunch program but federal law does not allow schools to ask families to show proof of income when they sign their kids up. That has led New Albany Representative Ed Clere to believe that some parents are misrepresenting their incomes.
It’s federal money, not state money, and we have taken action with regard to the school funding formula, and certainly that action is based on a belief that the lunch program is not an accurate or reliable indicator of the actual poverty level within a school corporation.
Since the textbook assistance program is a state program, schools are allowed to ask families to verify their income before receiving benefits. Clere says the change should have little effect on school funding.
Students who were counted under the lunch program method for computing the complexity index should still be counted under the textbook assistance method because the income maximums for both programs are identical, so there should be no negative effect on school corporations as long as families were, in fact, eligible to participate in the lunch program.
Federal law says schools can only audit up to 3 percent of families on the lunch program to show proof of their income. Of the 3 percent that were audited this year, a third were removed from the school lunch program, either because their incomes were too high or because no information was sent in to verify their eligibility to be in the program. More than 49 percent of public schools students receive free or reduced lunches, which is way up from recent years. For TheStatehouseFile.com, I’m Olivia Covington.