With the public’s kibosh on Marshall Tuck despite formidable backing this Tuesday, 11/4/14 past, support for Ed Privateers has been vanquished 5 times for 5 in all five of LA’s past elections. It’s a pretty clear signal from the electorate, particularly in light of enabler Deasy’s ignominious departure, that corporatizing the public education commons is just not desired.

Which is in no way the same as saying that Ed Reform is undesirable: there are few with any direct experience of LAUSD who would not welcome improvements in the system. What system couldn’t stand improvement, and constantly at that? But the very premise of Education Reform as a principle is a misnomer and insulting in that it implies, falsely, that educators would not and do not apply constant improvements to their profession without external prompts. And yet let us never mind the malicious marketing and sloganeering, as there is true underlying malaise in the education system that one and all ought to address.

It has to do with the inherent inequities of preparation and environment underlying all children who age (which is to say, all of us). It is clear that there are dismaying challenges facing many children in the public education system, including, among others, insecure housing, non- and anti-intellectual environments, and flat-out, empty, stomachs: hunger.

There is no question that hunger exists in America and I have little trouble believing that hungry children would be sub-optimal learners. However document after position paper after industry patter all confuse association with cause, asserting “proof” where in fact what is presented is little more than an article of faith. Worse, in an abundance of false certitude Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cites as justification for serving breakfast to students inside their classroom, a “study” that elevates a different set of concerns and conclusions altogether. And quite surprisingly to me, my fairly concerted effort to identify and understand the evidence for this program, suggests instead there is little to none. Indeed even the premise of Breakfast Primacy is challenged increasingly of late.

But there is no challenging the primacy of Breakfast In The LAUSD Classroom. It may be the only school district in America to involve every school by design, and not just elementary or maybe middle schools as argued in Duncan’s manifesto. This is a sacred cow implemented by our late superintendent, but championed by many of our system’s most powerful, from parent representative-advocate to school board members; philanthropists to respected users and stakeholders in the state’s primary to post-secondary public education system. Their common, genuine concern with inadequate learning among significant numbers, of often disadvantaged graduates, results in an almost defensive reverence for this program, despite the apparent lack of any rigorously tested validity.

The difficulty lies in confusing problem with solution. The imperative of the problem of hunger is uncontroversial, but a solution untethered to its nature simply substitutes one problem for another. Some children attend class while hungry, but bringing food inside of the classroom will not necessarily address that problem for a variety of reasons. And in the meantime a whole host of collateral ones are unleashed.

Instead of championing an existing, obligatory School Breakfast Program that would feed a child by regulated food service workers laboring in sanitary conditions, all without jeopardizing classroom learning time or hygiene, Walmart – this country’s largest employer of working adults qualifying for food stamps – prefers to bankroll a novel scheme to supply “food” to school desks rather than a working family’s dinner (or breakfast) table. Like previous centuries’ Native American boarding schools that compromised a family’s integrity, this system selectively intervenes in a family’s prerogative, assisting some at the expense of others. At least the afflicted were provided housing in those past episodes of infamy.

Thus in service of feeding the hungry I am denied my prerogative as a mother to feed my own child from out of my own hearth, while modern woes of obesity, humiliation, poor nutrition, packaging waste, food waste, inappropriate eating conditions, deconstruction of architecture and a generally environmentally leaden footprint undermine this program to the point of cynical disbelief: why are we doing this???

It is terribly hard to remain focused on the banality of evil and the possibility of golden intentions.

Because instead of giving our children, and by extension our whole entire society beyond them composed of family, friends and well-wishers – instead of sustaining an economy doing the essential work of raising our children, which we all know we all need – with real, not-processed, healthful food, grown by local farmers who need work, cooked truly by food service workers who need employment, serving meals in cafeterias designed to be cleanable by janitors who need the job, leaving our children physically and emotionally available to learn inside of classrooms, attended by a sufficiency of teaching staff who themselves need employment, and in adequate numbers to permit those self-same children some chance of receiving some of the personalized attention crucial to the activity of learning … instead of sustaining this obvious structure of the education complex, we consign our children to an entirely different agenda set by profit-maximizing corporations seeking to leverage a poor child’s needs into corporate welfare.

Shifting breakfast from out of the cafeteria, and into the classroom corrupts our children’s education and physical well-being as well. We condone this at the expense of a functioning, middle class economy in service of that fundamental human right affirmed by our democracy: that all children are created equal and endowed with an inalienable right to an equitable chance at shaping their future.

Our school board has started the work of cleaning house in LAUSD. They should carry on by cleaning the classrooms simultaneously of indefensibly large numbers of pupils and inappropriate and antithetical, junk food product placement.

¡¡¡ Clean Up Our Classrooms !!!
¡ Restore Food To The Cafeteria !
¡ Revamp Classrooms With Sufficient Faculty And Support Staff !

Screen shot 2014-11-06 at 1.11.11 AM

Chart data from 2013-14 BIC program.
Nutrient Metrics for LAUSD 2014-15:  http://achieve.lausd.net/cms/lib08/CA01000043/Centricity/Domain/126/Menu%20Item%20Nutrient%20Analysis%20Nov%202014%2010.27.14.pdf