They want to do what? Serve Breakfast In Classrooms (BIC) already bereft of janitorial attention? I cannot imagine the LA County Health Department will be too sanguine about such a proposal.

And yet … it is no mere proposal, this is evidently a mandate. While I find no reference to it on LAUSD’s website, my fellow parents were told that this is to be a district-wide requirement of all classrooms in all schools during the 2013-14 school year.

The suggestion is really beyond optimistic. Last I looked kindergarteners weren’t particularly restrained in their eating habits – nor, for that matter, are high-schoolers. By the same token, I have not hired my student’s classroom teacher to be swabbing the decks around my child; they are professionals engaged to teach her, not nanny her. But if the proposal is to implement BIC far and wide, who else but the teacher is left to clean up since most of the janitors have been fired? (Case in point:  since 2005 the janitorial staff at one middle school diminished 33%, from 14 staff for 1940 pupils down to 4 per 1700 in 2012). The windows on one hallway were so grimy recently you literally could not see out of them.

Who cleaned those windows? Parents. Who is being relied on in this scheme to serve and clean up breakfast? Parents. This proposal will subject our children to increasingly filthy, unhygienic conditions, and rely not only on teachers for “off-schedule” tasks in cleaning it up, but offload unpaid labor onto parents for its administration and cleanup as well. A parent from one of the schools where this scheme was “piloted” reports that it required a small army of parental assistance with the breakfast for tasks like peeling oranges; it is inappropriate to expect some youngsters to perform this task within any time period, much less the 10-minute mandated one.

Beyond these anecdotes, LAUSD’s own audit of this ill-conceived plan relates problems with numerous outcomes — basically, most of them. It’s all very well and good to rely on “data driven decisions”, but just collecting the data is not enough. It has to be interpreted, and correctly too.

In this article the district’s food services director declares the program a “smashing success”. But this report contains a litany of goals missed. From “management oversights” to food safety violations, to implementation policies and procedures violated by students and staff alike, it is hard to understand how this report could be interpreted as anything other than an implementation nightmare.

For reference, some select highlights:

• “At 16 of 18 classrooms visited (88.9 %), breakfast time exceeded the allowable 10 – 15 minute period by 5 to 30 minutes.“
• “Perishable food items stayed outside the insulated bags for more than one hour before returning them to the cafeteria at one classroom.“
• “One school visited had milk spillage in hallways and staircases and were not cleaned up in a timely manner.”

Please read the report for yourself; there are too many alarming violations to relate here. Pay particular attention to the surveys in the appendix.

No one denies the reality of hunger as an impediment to learning. No one denies the value of eradicating hunger among our youngsters as a whole so that they may learn better. In fact, this seems to be an admission of sorts that such background issues as social welfare and food and shelter matter to the educational mission. These parameters effect not only a child’s learning but their teacher’s capacity to teach them as well, an issue very relevant to the matter of teacher performance-evaluation.

But addressing these matters during the school’s instructional day will not forward the mission of education. Impinging on their learning time, however – their instructional time – will. If children need feeding at school, then they should be fed before the start of class, in a central food commons.

But this would not net the school district boatloads of money from external sources, which is what this is really all about. It’s hard enough getting children to the start of class on time; in reality even families in severe need will have trouble arriving at school sufficiently early to enjoy the subsidized breakfast. Thus the push to make it available mandatorily, at the start of the school day. In the last appendix of the report is a chart demonstrating a “101%” increase in state and federal revenues from this program. Even this fact sheet devotes a full third of column space to clarifying this underlying motivation for the program.

BIC is not conducted to acknowledge the relevance of hunger in teacher’s performance scores or poverty as a parameter affecting learning. This is a scheme to amplify district revenue. Which is a wonderful goal in itself, if it were not to be achieved at the expense of the very mission of the school district: teaching.

Recently a vendor presented a scheme for raising funds to one of my parent groups — selling mattresses. Yes, mattresses. I believe they are right that this could increase revenues for the school. But it seems a little outside our mission. There are many fine mattress salesmen in the neighborhood and if the schools started encroaching on these local businesses, it might “kill them” (or ‘Larry’).

We should stick to our given task: educating children. This does not include saddling teachers with responsibility for all the social ills that impede this mission. Underlying confounding issues should be addressed with all due haste, but separately, and not through the same agencies. While interrelated, issues of hunger, poverty and educational excellence should not be conflated. One social service cannot be held responsible for the outcome of another. These missions must be separated, cleanly.