School Lunch Money Controversy in Morgan County

By: Denny Trease
By: Denny Trease

Many schools have raised student lunch prices this year to keep up with rising costs. Morgan County kept its student lunches at $1.25, but school began there this week with the system facing more than $10,000 worth of unpaid lunch money.

Some parents there are irate over what the school system is doing to collect the debt. When letters and phone calls simply reminding parents that their child's lunch account was severely overdue didn't seem to work, the Morgan County Board of Education sent out a letter with this warning: "We can turn the account over to a collection agency, we can go to small claims court, we can garnish wages or we can serve your child an alternative meal like crackers with peanut butter and water. No one wants to see your child eating this fare when other kids are eating pizza or spaghetti or chicken nuggets. However, you leave us with no alternative."

Morgan County Superintendent of Schools Joe Dan Gold tells 27 NEWSFIRST, "The bottom line is I don't think we took that option with any student last year. But we were trying to make a point that it is an option. It has been an option for I guess forever almost."

Morgan is one of the counties in Kentucky with at least a ten per cent unemployment rate, but most of the letters sent out were not to low income families.

Superintendent Gold says, "These were parents who either did not fill out a free or reduced lunch form or did not qualify for those programs."

And the letter encourages parents to contact the school if they've started having financial problems. Gold say, "If you've been laid off or you have an illness or there's some extenuating circumstances, all you have to do is call the school and we will work with you."

Parents who spoke with 27 NEWSFIRST on the condition of anonymity said the only part of the letter that really bothered them was the part about giving their child an alternative meal of crackers and water, and Superintendent Gold admits, "We could probably have softened that a little bit. I think that may have been a little harsh, but we certainly accomplished what we wanted to do, to raise awareness."

Fayette County does provide an alternative meal of a cheese sandwich and milk to any student who account is unpaid, and some counties have a "no money, no food" policy for all delinquent accounts.


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  • by Concerned Parent Location: Morgan Co on Aug 24, 2008 at 12:21 PM
    I think a lot of people are assuming that the people who have not paid these bills are deadbeats or living off the government. That is simply not true. If this were the case they would already be getting free lunch. I think these parents are hard working people who are trying to make ends meet in an economy that is struggling. I, too am a working mother who received this letter. My husband and I both have good jobs and make good salaries. This letter was the first communication I received from the school board. Throughout the summer, I did not receive any phone calls or letters period! Yes, some of us do choose to have our children, but if the parents are deadbeats, the children do not choose their parents.
  • by Parent Location: Morgan Co on Aug 16, 2008 at 09:48 PM
    Where does our tax money go? I do understand that it takes a great deal of money for operating expenses. What I don't understand is why our children are being ask to bring in supplies. I have had two children go through Morgan Co. Middle School, my children were told to bring in supplies for the class. The more you took in the more bonus points you get. Supplies ranged from a pack of pencils to a pack of coping paper. I feel this is away to bribe the children to get what they wanted. What are we going to have to do next? Start sending in food in order for the children to eat.!!!!! How many bonus point will this be.
  • by Morgan Co. Citizen Location: Morgan Co. on Aug 16, 2008 at 07:33 PM
    I do feel that all unpaid bills need to be paid. But I do not agree with using our tax money and sending the board members to Florida. What benifit is this to our children? Food is more important than a (ALL PAID EXPENSE VACATION TO THE BOARD).
  • by Jason on Aug 14, 2008 at 08:07 PM
    Yet again it's the school systems responsibility. Do the parents have any responsibility of raising a child in today's world? Didn't the parents chose to have these children? Shouldn't they be responsible for feeding THEIR children? Maybe someday school systems will be seen for more than a daycare service that provides relief to parents while they do who knows what. Have you received a FREE meal from McDonalds lately? Go to your local restaurant, sit down and enjoy a meal, and leave WITHOUT paying and see what happens. Taxes paid to a school district help pay for salaries, utilities, buildings, materials, etc. Schools and especially school cafeterias as they operate independently of the school district are businesses and must make money to pay for the food and the salaries of the cafeteria workers. It's past time for everyone to stop looking for a handout. Get an education, expect your kids to get an education, and SUPPORT your schools as they attempt to work with YOUR child.
  • by Lisa Location: West Liberty on Aug 13, 2008 at 08:59 PM
    SHAME ON JOE DAN GOLD AND ALL THE BOARD MEMBERS!!!! I have a simple solution...Cut Mr. Gold's pay to a reasonable income and stop taking so many trips. Then all kids in Morgan Co. can eat free. As tax payers we expect our money to go to our childern and not the staff.
  • by SANDY Location: West Liberty on Aug 13, 2008 at 05:57 PM
    AS A TAX PAYER I THINK THAT I ALONE PAY ENOUGH TAXES TO PAY FOR MEALS FOR AT LEAST 50% OF THESE KIDS. SHAME ON ANY ONE THAT WOULD TRY TO DEPRIVE KIDS OF FOOD BECAUSE OF MONEY! I THINK THAT WE HAVE BIGGER CONCERNS IN MORGAN CO. SCHOOLS. MAYBE MR. GOLD SHOULD FOCUS MORE ON PROTECTING KIDS FROM PERVERT BUS DRIVERS!!! TIME FOR A CHANGE I THINK....AND SHAME ON ALL OF THE BOARD MEMBERS THAT SUPPORT THIS MAN!!!
  • by neighbor Location: eastern kentucky on Aug 13, 2008 at 05:53 PM
    I live in Magoffin County and have friends from a lot of different counties. I only know of one county, WOlfe that has free lunch for everyone. I also know from an ex friend in Morgan county that he got a registered letter in April about his kids lunch bill but he still didnt pay it. I think some people take way too much advantage, anyway if you have kids you should know when they owe money, pay your kids bills without reminders I do here but I know alot dont.
  • by Union Proud Location: West Libert on Aug 13, 2008 at 02:11 AM
    I DONT HAVE ANY CHILDREN BUT I DO PAY A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF TAXES IN MORGAN COUNTY AND KENTUCKY MY UNION ALSO DOES. I SAY OLE JOE DAN IS GETTING PAID WAY TO MUCH TO RUN OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM BESIDES HE IS NOT EVEN FROM MORGAN COUNTY OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM HAS BEEN ALL TO PEICES EVER SINCE EARL REED RETIRED. IF THE MORGAN COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION DENIES A CHILD A MEAL PAID OR NOT THEY SHOULD BE TAKEN TO COURT FOR NEGLECT OF THAT CHILD. I DO BELIVE STATE LAW READS THAT IF YOU NEGLECT YOUR CHILD THE COMMONWEALTH WILL CHARGE YOU AND PLACE YOU IN JAIL AND TAKE THE CHILD. I BELIEVE WHEN A CHILD GOES TO SCHOOL THAT CHILD SHOULD BE FED AND KEPT SAFE NO QUESTIONS ASK! MORGAN COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION SHOULD BE MORE WORRIED ABOUT KEEPING DRUGS AND WEAPONS OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS INSTEAD OF TAKING PARENTS TO COURT OVER PETTY STUFF LIKE THIS. IF ANY PARENT WERE TO ASK HOW MANY TRIPS PER YEAR THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS TAKE AND HOW MUCH THEY COST THEY WOULD BE VERY SUPRISED!!! COME ON BE PROUD AND VOTE HIM OUT.
  • by Bobbi Location: Ky on Aug 12, 2008 at 04:26 PM
    If this is acceptable for children then it acceptable for our inmates in jail. Criminals get 3 hot meals a day and its free. Send that food to the schools.
  • by friend Location: ky on Aug 12, 2008 at 03:18 PM
    it's all about the children and what they have been threatened with being fed. it's not at all about the money.

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