The 49-cent lunch

Part-time cafeteria workers and their families will get full health benefits in Los Angeles Unified, but the school board doesn’t know where the money will come from. Last week, the board voted to extend the schedule of cafeteria workers from three hours a day to four, so they’ll qualify for benefits, reports the LA Times.

The school district puts the annual new cost at $35.5 million; the union estimate is about $28 million. Either way, the district has identified no money to pay for the benefits.

Several new board members, elected with union contributions, pushed the measure.

The union campaign for health benefits suggested that lengthening servers’ hours will give students more time to eat.

. . . the union’s campaign talked foremost about students such as Josh Ruiz, 16, a junior at Venice High. When the lunch bell rings he must dash into line, he said, or choose between having five minutes to eat or being late to class.

But the board didn’t extend lunch periods.

In an LA Times op-ed, a parent complains that the cost of benefits will cut the funding available to pay for food from 85 cents per meal to 49 cents per meal. LA schools already have dropped fresh fruit. Too pricey.

About Joanne


  1. I would say that if they have allocated anything under a dollar – for that matter, anything under several dollars – for lunch, that the problem is not with the minimum-wage employees getting some pittance of a benefit, but with a brain-dead budget allocation process that does not understand such basics as the piece of food. Don’t you agree?

  2. Yeah, the purpose of the public education system is to fund the salaries and benefits of the employees.

    That much is obvious since there’s plenty of concern about salaries and bennies and a distinct lack of concern about education.

  3. Jesus “allen”, did some teacher beat the hell out of you at random times throughout your educational experience?

    You should thank God that teachers actually DO care about education because you’re paying them shit. And when my salary and benefits get to be something to celebrate, I’ll let you know, because in my county two teachers can hardly afford a house.

    I’m still waiting for the day when you get your pissy ass in the classroom. Then you can use your extensive educational experience to give us some real insight.

    It’s easy to talk the game, junior.

  4. Charley Cowens says:

    What’s puzzling to me is that this dubious decision is coming from a Board where in the last election the school union candidates mostly lost to candidates backed by LA’s mayor so that Villaraigosa “controls” the Board. Do Villaraigosa-backed candidates have a majority on the Board or not? The relevance to this item is whether the decision can be completely blamed on “the unions” or not.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Coach Brown, I apologize for the itching powder in your jock and all the other tricks we used to pull on the gullible PE majors. Friends?

  6. Sorry, Coach (that’s the cheap travel seats, right?) Brown, but my pissy ass isn’t going anywhere near a classroom. That doesn’t matter, because the one person for whose education I am responsible, my son, never went anywhere near one either.

  7. Ya know…when I was a kid, the school lunches were nasty. I think school lunches have ALWAYS been nasty (they didn’t have fresh fruit back in the 70s, either. And the hamburgers had soy or some kind of weird vegetable matter that had hulls in them).

    My solution (which I realize may not be open to every family in the U.S. but, seriously: if you can afford cable tv or a cell phone, you should be able to afford some basic nutrition for your kid) was to pack a lunch every day. (Or rather: my mom packed them for me, at least when I was in the lower grades). I got what I wanted to eat, my mom saw to it that I had a reasonably balanced meal, I didn’t have to wait in line for my foam-tray of food-product, everyone was happy.

    Still, I’m kind of puzzled – I thought California taxed out the wazoo – and they can’t find 50 cents to spend per school lunch? Sounds like some kind of misappropriation somewhere.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I am confident that we send our food service directors to all the seminars on organic, sustainable diets, all over the world.

  9. Tell you what, Coach, why don’t we *not* make me the issue, ‘kay?

    The issue is whether people who do jobs requiring very little skill and having very little responsibility are entitled by virtue of their membership in the human race to take food out of the mouths of babes. You know, those kids who get one or two squares a day at tax-payer expense so their hunger doesn’t interfere with the splendid education they typically get.

    So which one’s it going to be Coach? 85¢ for lunch or health benefits for cafeteria workers?

    Don’t worry, you can still whine about how desperately under-funded the public education system is.

  10. Richard Brandshaft says:

    The problem is one that applies to every employer:

    We do not want to admit how socialistic we are. Therefore, the government can’t cover catastrophic medical expenses. Therefore, we have this weird system where employers are responsible for employees’ health. We kid ourselves that this isn’t a tax (except for public employees).

    When Hillary Clinton was making a over-complicated hash of health care reform, William F. Buckley suggested that the government cover catastrophic medical expenses, with “catastrophic” being defined as more than 5% of income. Too simple for liberals, too humane for conservatives.

  11. Andy Freeman says:

    > And when my salary and benefits get to be something to celebrate,

    Brown doesn’t understand. If the salary for his/her position goes up, she won’t be the one collecting it.

    If we decide that we need to pay more money to get better education, we won’t give it to folks in the current system. Perhaps Brown can figure out why.

  12. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    Actually, Coach, considering the lousy job you alleged “professionals” are doing, I say you need a pay CUT. You know, like what happens in the Real World, if/when I do a lousy job.
    Why do you guys and gals post garbage like what you have,and then turn around and bawl about why you aren’t getting treated like multi-millionaires because you TEACH? (Why, how on earth did civilization EVER get to where it is today without public school???)

  13. I recently started working for city government, mostly administering city grants with subgrantees. I have previous experience with grants at the state level. When I was monitoring pollution prevention grants at the state government level, the organizations receiving the grants had to demonstrate results and measure outcomes in order to receive money. For example, for training that reduced waste for spray coaters (painters), actual reduction of paint was measured (along with other criteria). Participants were also surveyed. Both environmental and economic goals had to be met in order to receive money. Results were important because companies were being offered a reduction in permit fees if they participated in this training. In contrast I have found that local government grants are set up entirely different and this is due in part to rules established by the State Board of Accounts of each State and also federal accounting rules for local government finance. Schools are included in local government finance or usually have similar rules for finance. One of my current grants is for a subgrantee that provides life skills to people living in homeless shelters/transitional housing. Money is paid to this subgrantee based on the salaries and benefits provided to the instructors. What I am required to monitor for this life skills grant are salaries and benefits that the subgrantee is actually paying the instructors. For salaries, I monitor what they are claiming using bank statements, independent payroll audits, and time sheets. For benefits, copies of checks and bank statement proof that the subgrantee is paying an insurance companies and the instructors have the insurance that was submitted as proof, the subgrantee also has to provide proof that worker compensation and FICA have been paid for each employee. This particular subgrantee is self-insured for unemployment, so it had to provide proof that it had the financial stability to payout unemployment to these instructors if ever needed. I also am required to monitor that subgrantee is meeting fair employment standards. Everything that I am required to monitor is finance based. Performance of the students is not tied to the money. The number of students served is not tied to the money. Only the number of instruction hours and pay rate of the instructors is counted for this particular life skills grant. Contrast that to the pollution prevention grant. These life skill classes happen to be really successful because the organization is keeping track of outcomes and performance for their own purposes, but I really can’t give them credit for doing a great job. I have greatly oversimplified this, but I can see why the benefits of part time cafeteria takes priority over student performance, because local government finance and budgets are what is being counted when it comes to money.