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Randy Speck

Superintendent , Madison District Public Schools

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Debate: Should public schools take on the responsibility for offering basic needs like food and health care to students and families?

Schools may no longer be just a place for parents to drop their kids off for six and a half hours each day. Due to various socio-economics, schools increasingly find themselves in a new place of influence. The impact of that influence could have a major impact on communities. Schools have access to be able to provide three meals a day through various breakfast, lunch and dinner programs. Schools have access to healthcare through School Based Health Centers to be able to provide services to students, their families and the community. However, the debate is...should schools have this responsibility?

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    Oct 26 2012: I think schools are a natural vehicle for providing free and reduced price breakfasts and lunches. Children need to be at school right after breakfast and are at school at lunchtime five days per week.

    Providing these meals at school provides the best assurance that school children will have food to eat and provides an extra inducement to get to school.

    I have no familiarity with school districts that offer a dinner program.

    Is there another institution, Randy, that you think is better positioned to make sure these kids are eating?

    Or is your question not so much about who should provide the service as where the budget for food services should come from?
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      Oct 26 2012: Fritzie,

      My reasons for the question stem from the shift that has occurred over the past 10-15 years in which schools play an increasingly large role in the social education and raising of students. I may have once been a believer that "schools should just stick with teaching math, science and reading", however as I have grown in experience as an educational leader, I see the power and positive influence a school district can have. For example, the district that I lead offers universal breakfast to all students and a supper program to students who participate in after school academic enrichment activities. I serve a school district with 85% Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility and our families can struggle with basic needs such as food. I am seeing first-hand that the services we offer as a school, are having a real impact on the lives of families. I believe this philosophy can and will expand to other areas, health-care, etc. My question really is, should public schools take on the responsibility of being a community center in which the access that we have to various services will take on an active approach to providing a re-birth to a community that suffers from low socio-economics.
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        Oct 26 2012: I think the model of providing supplementary food and the sorts of medical care kids tend to require at school makes good sense. Limited counseling services also are sensible.

        After school programs that engage kids in safe and enriching activities are a great add on as well that make good use of the school building after hours.

        I don't think providing meal, health, or social services to those who are not students is a good fit with serving children. I think school should give kids some respite from adults' issues and problems.

        An exception is that I think it is highly valuable to offer evening opportunities to students' parents to come in and learn how best to support their children's learning.

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