SISD meeting to consider future of federal program that keeps our children fed gets canceled.
A called meeting by the Stephenville ISD board of trustees to discuss the future of the Community Eligibility Provision, a program that provides every child in the district with a free breakfast and lunch despite their family’s ability to pay, has been abruptly canceled.
A statement emailed to Beneath the Surface News by SISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Cederstrom states:
“In recent months, there has been some unfortunate politicization tied to the feeding of our children through the National School Lunch Program. As we begin the new year, this issue is being fought through the legal system on a national level.
“While this issue is decided nationally, we want to assure our community, parents, and students that our district will continue to provide nutritious meals to every child in need without compromising the traditional values our community embodies.
"We will continue to make meeting the educational and physical needs of our students our top priority, just as we always have.
“The board of trustees originally had a special meeting scheduled tomorrow, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss this topic, but that meeting has been canceled until further information is available on this issue.”
THE MOMENT MY JAW HIT THE FLOOR
I first learned about the now-canceled meeting while I was having lunch with my family at Hula Hut in Austin on Saturday.
The person who called me – a highly-respected head of a non-profit organization – was furious that two board members – Luke Sims and Phyllis Stewart – had called the meeting to talk about whether or not the school district should continue the program because, well, some have connected it with Title IX.
Title IX is a civil rights law that protects students from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
Some say that accepting the funds means that the district will have to allow transgender students into bathrooms and on sports teams they identify with, but the truth is that ALL federal programs have requirements that districts must meet in order to maintain the funding.
And here’s the bigger issue: Stephenville, Texas is not exactly a hotspot for the LGBTQ community and there is not a single case involving a transgender student asking for special provisions in the district.
So why is this even a thing, you ask? Why are elected board members threatening or considering forfeiting a program that feeds our children?
Well, your guess was as good as mine and that’s why I started making calls this morning.
After receiving a text from a member of the Stephenville City Council asking me to look into the issue, I hopped on a call with Dr. Cederstrom.
“I am worried about this,” he said. “I think it would consume a lot of time, passion and energy trying to reestablish how to feed these kids, how to pay salaries (for the people who would feed the kids) and how to reestablish the supply chain.
“If this program went away, we would have a lot of kids that would come to school and not eat.”
By the time I reached board members Sherrie Evans, Matt Miller, Chad Elms, Luke Sims and Phyllis Stewart, my blood was boiling.
Sims, who called the meeting, said he was simply trying to gather information about the program and denied that he wanted it dismantled.
“When it comes to the district I serve, I can assure you that every decision I make will benefit our community,” Sims said. “It’s very important that facts are discussed and communication is had so that all can be informed of what is happening at SISD.”
Stewart, however, had a whole lot more head-scratching stuff to say.
“The meeting was called to determine if we want to accept the program,” she said. “I have a lot of grandchildren and this is tied to transgenders. If we accept the program, it means that we have to allow the transgenders to play in our sports and use our bathrooms.”
Then she told me to “Google it.”
Stewart went on to say that she “has a problem taking government money.”
“We can feed them ourselves,” she said.
When asked where the $1.3 million in federal funding to cover the 450,000 meals would come from, she suggested “the general fund.”
Me: How much is in that fund?
“I have no idea. The district doesn’t tell us anything.”
Me: Don’t you have access to the financial statements?
“I haven’t seen them in two months.”
Four Advil and just as many hours later, the meeting was canceled.
But I’m still outraged.
As a mother, I know that any program that keeps our children fed is a good one and at a time when families can barely afford to pay for gas and electricity, entertaining an idea that would cut meal funding for the school district’s most vulnerable children isn’t just irresponsible, it’s disgusting.
And I’m glad someone pulled the plug on this nonsense before it went any further.
Remember this in May.