‘Free lunch’ should be a wakeup call

Published 5:52 am Friday, July 26, 2013

The recent news that 74 percent of Decatur County school children are on free or reduced lunch means the entire student body is eligible for free lunch for the next few years. This should send a wake-up message to our community.

The child poverty rate here has gone from 33 percent in 2007 to more than 46 percent. While not published, the gradation for Bainbridge High for the last two report years, 2011 and 2012 (2013 is not out yet), was in the low 70th percentile. Having almost 30 percent of a high school class not graduating just adds to our county’s poverty.

The solution lies within us. Blame does not lie with our teachers; merchants and others who hire school dropouts add to the problem. A minimum wage job may look good at age 17, but at age 27 the reality is that you are not a positive contributor to the community as a property owner or as major consumer. The reality is you will more than likely have a child needing free lunch at school. The cycle continues only because we allow and encourage it for cheap labor.

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On another note, our city and county leaders continue to raise the mileage rate as a band-aid solution. We must either live within the means we have (and not adding to the tax burden of most who have not seen a pay increase in many years) or look at the real problem of our county’s finances: the pipeline to poverty we have allowed to be created.

John H. McRae