Laurie’s Letter To The Editor On CEP, August 12, 2020
THE BALTIMORE SUN
AUG 12, 2020 AT 4:12 PM
Congratulations to the Baltimore County Board of Education and the Baltimore County Public Schools administration for ensuring that all students in at least 66 schools countywide will be offered breakfast and lunch at no charge to them for at least the next four years. With widespread support from the community, the school board voted unanimously on July 14 to implement the Community Eligibility Provision this summer in all county schools that qualify for the program. The program means no more lunch shaming, school meal debt, or paperwork for the parents of over 45,000 students in more than 66 schools — over 40% of all schools in the system.
Cheers are also in order for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. who has prioritized the needs of children at risk of hunger and food insecurity. Full participation in CEP was included in his blueprint for the county which was published in 2019 after his election.
The federal deadline to opt into CEP is Aug. 31. BCPS must provide a complete list of all county schools where CEP will be implemented to the Maryland State Department of Education before then.
The system’s commitment to implementing CEP in all eligible schools is especially important now as the pandemic has resulted in a huge increase in the number of families struggling to make ends meet. We look forward to the list of participating schools being shared with the public and plan to celebrate the creation of the new “Hunger Free Schools” after Aug. 31.
Student Support Network Resolution, Summer 2020
The Student Support Network is committed through its mission to assist students in poverty and those experiencing homelessness in Baltimore County Public Schools and to advocate on their behalf. As part of this mission, the Network is resolved to improve communication, intentionally create inclusive programs, and work to end disparities in access to resources. The Network is particularly concerned about addressing the effects of poverty and homelessness disproportionately affecting students and families of color. The Network is also committed to practice honest and thoughtful reflection in considering its programs and advocacy, guided by the principle that creating an environment that can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people ultimately benefits everyone.
First Hybrid School Board, December 2018
The first hybrid school board in the history of Baltimore County Public Schools held its first meeting on December 11, 2018. Seven board members were elected from each Councilmanic District, and five were appointed by the governor following recommendations from a nominating commission. Kathleen Causey was elected Chair of the Board, and Julie Henn Vice Chair. The hybrid school board was formed after years of work by education advocates to change state legislation.
From left to right: Julie Henn, Lily Rowe (6th District), Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, Student Support Network, Jayne Lee, Chair, PTSA of Baltimore County, Leslie Weber, co-founder of Advocates for Baltimore County Public Schools, Kathleen Causey, and Cheryl Pasteur (2nd District).
CEP: We need to feed as many children facing hunger and food insecurity as possible.
We are grateful that Superintendent White has agreed to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to the approximately 7,000 students in BCPS who now qualify for Reduced Price Meals. The real problem with Ms. White’s recent statement is her assertion that the Eligibility Provision (CEP), a program offering breakfast and lunch at no charge in only high poverty schools, is somehow fiscally irresponsible or unsustainable.
• 19 schools could benefit from CEP for a modest investment of $1 million dollars. BCPS has a budget of $1.8 billion dollars. BCPS can fund CEP in the 19 high poverty schools at a cost of about 58 cents per student per day. To fund CEP in all 51 high poverty schools eligible (list below) would probably be $2.5 – 3.5 million dollars a year. BCPS can afford to feed hungry children in these schools – the most basic investment in education that one could make.
• Even with “Baltimore County Cares for Kids,” many hard working families in our county do not qualify for any meal assistance. As Ms. White points out herself, a family of 4 with an income of just $46,435 (the federal income limit for a student to qualify for a Reduced Price Meal – to qualify for a Free Meal, a family of four must make less than $32,630) struggles economically. The annual income for a family of 4 to be economically self-sufficient in Maryland (and no savings possible) is about $60,000 a year. How does Ms. White propose to help the thousands of children in families who make too much to qualify for Reduced Price Meals, but who are thousands of dollars below economic self-sufficiency? CEP meals in school help families caught in the middle between earning too much for assistance and not enough to make ends meet.
• CEP does not impact Title 1 funding for BCPS! Claiming otherwise is misleading. Title 1 funding is based on census data – period.
• CEP does impact how BCPS makes decisions about how much Title 1 funding each school within the system should receive, but the overall Title 1 funding for BCPS remains the same size pie. BCPS can divide the pie into equitable pieces, as thousands of other schools across the country have already done.
• CEP does not negatively impact other “supplemental benefits.” In fact, it expands access to these benefits. All students in City Schools (because the poverty rate IS high enough in the City for the entire system to have elected CEP), are now eligible for discounted internet access at home and other benefits. Previously, this benefit required individual approval for free or reduced-price meals. CEP has reached about 8 million students in more than 17,000 schools across the U.S. Therefore, procedures have been put in place for low-income students in CEP schools to access “supplemental benefits” such as AP waivers and SAT exam fee waivers. BCPS can do this too. See part of the attached letter below (p. 4) – Tam Kelley’s initial response to Ms. White’s refusal to expand CEP regarding waivers for AP, ACT, and SAT exams, and the policy guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Education.
• Ms. White is trying to justify her refusal to implement CEP by implying that all schools should be included in considering CEP. This is not true. The figure she cites of 26% of all students system-wide qualifying for CEP is not relevant here, because no one is talking about the entire school system electing CEP. What she doesn’t mention are the high percentages of students that count towards electing CEP in our higher poverty schools, such as Deep Creek ES (53%), Dundalk ES (53%) and Sandalwood ES (51%). Ms. White still has time to do the right thing (deadline is September 4), and elect CEP in 51 high poverty schools, thereby helping many thousands of students that will still face hunger and food insecurity who fall outside of the Free and Reduced Price Meals system. BCPS has implemented CEP in only four schools: Dundalk MS, Dundalk HS, Riverview ES, and Hawthorne ES.
Will the Superintendent help the thousands of other students in our other high poverty schools facing hunger and food insecurity next year through electing CEP for them? There is still time!
***Lauren Lumpkin of the Baltimore Sun wrote an article on July 23. 2018 titled: “Advocates urge Baltimore County schools to expand free meals, but officials wary of federal fund impact”. Read the Sun Article
***We are not alone in advocating for BCPS to participate more fully in CEP. The Baltimore Sun published an editorial on July 23, 2018 expressing the same opinion. Read the Sun Editorial
***On August 2, 2018, Superintendent Verletta White wrote a response titled: “Baltimore County won’t adopt universal free school meals; here’s why”. Read Ms. White’s Response
***A letter to the Sun Editor by a group of advocates responding to Ms. White’s Op-Ed and urging greater adoption of CEP in Baltimore County schools was published August 6, 2018. Read the Advocates’ Letter to the Sun
***On August 7, 2018 the School Nutrition Association (SNA), a national non-profit organization recognized as the authority on school nutrition, highlighted our CEP advocacy in its “Tuesday Morning” newsletter:
Baltimore County Decides Against CEP Expansion, Despite Advocate’s Urging
Baltimore County Public Schools announced last week that they would not be embracing NSLP’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in all schools that are eligible, after a late summer debate between district officials and advocates. Interim Superintendent Verletta White expressed concern about impacts on Title I funding and noted that the county does not meet the criteria for district-wide eligibility. She also announced that the district would cover the student portion of reduced-price lunch in all schools. Earlier this summer the Maryland NAACP, Baltimore County League of Women Voters and the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board urged the expansion of the program.
Here are the 51 Baltimore County Public Schools that are All Eligible to Elect the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for 2018-2019 SY by “Grouping” or “Bundling” Them Together
1. Arbutus Elementary
2. Baltimore Highlands Elementary
3. Battle Grove Elementary
4. Battle Monument School
5. Bear Creek Elementary
6. Berkshire Elementary
7. Catonsville Ctr For Alter Stud
8. Charlesmont Elementary
9. Chase Elementary
10. Chesapeake High
11. Colgate Elementary
12. Crossroads Center
13. Deep Creek Elementary
14. Deep Creek Middle
15. Dundalk Elementary
16. Dundalk High
17. Dundalk Middle
18. Genl John Stricker Middle
19. Glenmar Elementary
20. Glyndon Elementary
21. Grange Elementary
22. Halethorpe Elementary
23. Halstead Academy
24. Hawthorne Elementary
25. Hernwood Elementary
26. Holabird Middle
27. Johnnycake Elementary
28. Lansdowne Elementary
29. Lansdowne Middle
30. Logan Elementary
31. Mars Estates Elementary
32. Martin Blvd Elementary
33. McCormick Elementary
34. Meadowood Education Ctr
35. Middle River Middle
36. Middlesex Elementary
37. Norwood Elementary
38. Orems Elementary
39. Randallstown Elementary
40. Riverview Elementary
41. Rosedale Center
42. Sandalwood Elementary
43. Sandy Plains Elementary
44. Scotts Branch Elementary
45. Seneca Elementary
46. Shady Spring Elementary
47. Stemmers Run Middle
48. Sussex Elementary
49. Timber Grove Elementary
50. Victory Villa Elementary
51. White Oak School