As the short session for the North Carolina General Assembly got started a few days ago, a couple of senate bills were filed that would continue the availability of free breakfasts and lunches for public school students in the state.
During the pandemic, these were funded with COVID relief funds. That will end soon.
But this very vital service needs to still be funded by the state and these two bills should be passed.
Of course, there will be those like Tim Moore and Phil Berger who will say that it will be an added expense even though we as a state have incredible surpluses due to not investing in our schools and other vital needs in the state.
But it would not take too much to make this happen.
And here’s one place that we could find ready money: the Opportunity Grants. Why? Because the money set aside for this opaquely nontransparent program has never been fully spent even though the amount is getting increased every year.
From the Opportunity Scholarship Summary from the state:
The total amount of scholarships awarded in the four-year period chronicled above is $175,634,731. Here’s what is (was) budgeted for the program over a ten year window including the years referred to above.
The money allocated for the fiscal years of 2017-2018 through 2020-2021 amounts to $239,360,000.
That gives a surplus of $63,725,269. That alone is almost 2/3 of the money needed ALREADY in the funds according to the number of scholarships awarded.
But there is more…
That’s for the 2021-2022 school year application process.
Look at how many scholarships were awarded – 13,456. Look at how many accepted and then eventually enrolled – 7,407.
A little over half of the people who got the scholarship actually wnet through with using it. Do you think the same percentage of students who have a chance to get food for breakfast and lunch at school who really want it would bypass that opportunity?