A Pennsylvania school district that recently came under fire after threatening parents that their kids could be recommended to be put in foster care if they didn’t pay off their school lunch debts has turned down an offer from a local businessman to clear the debts, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

According to the local paper, the Wyoming Valley West school board rejected an offer from Todd Carmichael, the CEO of La Colombe Coffee Roasters headquartered in Philadelphia, to pay off over $22,000 worth of debt for local students. 

In an op-ed Carmichael wrote that was published in the Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice on Tuesday, the businessman said that he had worked with his team to “reach out to the school district to let them know we were eager to donate the full amount outstanding, reported as $22,467.” 

“On Monday, we talked to School Board President Joseph Mazur to determine the best way to transfer the funds in order to wipe the slate clean and restore dignity to the 1,000 families who received these threatening letters,” he continued.

“Shockingly, Mr. Mazur turned us down. I can’t explain or justify his actions. Let me be clear: we offered over $22,000 with no strings attached. And he said ‘No,’” Carmichael went on to write.

“Mr. Mazur, I am offering to pay this debt in full. By saying no, you are not just shaming families who elected you, but you are placing this burden on WVW taxpayers, and that is completely unfair,” he added.


The op-ed comes days after a copy of a letter that the school district recently sent home to parents surfaced, in which parents were warned that their children could be recommended for foster care if they did not pay off their student lunch debts. 

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” the letter from July 9 states. “This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food." 

“If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter continues. "Please remit payment as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities.” 

The letter prompted a wave of backlash across the United States last week, including from Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda MORE Jr. (D- Pa.), who called the letter “callous” on Twitter.

“No child should have to imagine the horror of being ripped away from their parents because their family is struggling economically. These letters were callous and should never have happened,” he tweeted last week.

“Moving forward, the School District has an obligation to find an appropriate way to collect these funds, instead of using threats,” he continued.

Mazur did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on Tuesday.