Local schools’ free, reduced lunch numbers decline

Article subtitle: 
Robust economy, fear both cited for 12% drop since 2015
Article CAIRCO note: 
From article: If students qualify for free and reduced lunch, school districts are reimbursed $2.09 per meal for breakfast, $3.65 for lunch or supper and 85 cents for a snack.
Article author: 
Randy Wyrick
Article publisher: 
Vail Daily
Article date: 
28 February 2020
Article category: 
Colorado News
Article Body: 

[...]  Money, or more than that?

Could it really be as simple as employment and wages?

Maybe, but maybe not.

While some cite the robust economy for the decline, others point to changes in federal law and fear among those in the country illegally. However, even those in the country illegally can apply for free and reduced lunch through their local public schools. The information is not shared with immigration officials, Daniel Dougherty, the school district’s chief communications officer said.

In other words, some people won’t apply because they’re afraid Immigration and Customs Enforcement will find them and they might be deported. That’s not how the program works, Marian McDonough, regional director with Catholic Charities said.

“People might be pulling back from benefits to which they’re entitled,” McDonough said ...

Changes in Public Charge law

Steve Coyer chairs the Vail Valley Foundation’s education committee. He said he was speaking with a local school official and learned that some families had stopped signing up for free and reduced lunch because of fear over changes in federal immigration policy. Families are fearful of being recorded as “public charges,” with potential negative immigration consequences in the future, Coyer wrote in an email.

Federal regulations define a “public charge” as an alien who has received public benefits for more than 12 months within any three-year period. It’s aimed at promoting self-sufficiency, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Versions of the law have been around since the 1880s. Since 1996, federal laws have required that aliens seeking to come to or remain in the United States, temporarily or permanently, must be self-sufficient.

“Self-sufficiency is central to the American identity and has defined generations of hardworking immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States,” Matthew Bourke with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security said in an email ...