Paul: Los Angeles school district wasting lunch money

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District of reallocating federal funds for the National School Lunch Program to buy a new sprinkler system and pay salaries at the district’s local television stations.

In his latest edition of The Waste Report, the GOP presidential candidate said the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes (CSOOO) found that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) diverted more than $158 million over a six-year period from the lunch program.

As a tactic to keep the funds from being used for lunches, Paul said the LAUSD reduced lunch periods to as little as 20 minutes in some schools, so students whose lunch was already paid for with federal funds would be unable to receive the food.

“But this did not stop LAUSD from crying foul about school lunch funding,” The Waste Report said. “In January 2009, while funds were being misappropriated, a LAUSD press release carried the headline, ‘cafeteria fund cash flow may leave neediest LAUSD students hungry,’ advocating for increased funds.”

In a statement to The Hill, LAUSD Spokeswoman Barbara Jones said the district repaid its cafeteria fund more than $159 million as the result of the state audit of the student meal program from 2004 to 2010.

“Since then, the district has implemented the recommendations of the California Controller’s Office to ensure that cafeteria costs are allocated correctly,” she said.

The 2013 CSOOO report found that several other districts were also mismanaging or illegally re-appropriating federal school lunch funds, the report went on to say.

“What should concern federal taxpayers is that once the money is in state hands, the state is responsible for oversight. In the case of California, the average state auditor is keeping tabs on (or trying to) federal (and state) funds going to a whopping 51 school districts,” Paul’s report said. “At approximately $2 billion annually, California is the largest recipient of federal funds from the National School Lunch Program.”

Paul’s report comes as lawmakers review the first lady’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children by setting nutrition standards for school meals. GOP lawmakers have been pushing for rollbacks to whole grain-rich, salt content and fruit and vegetable serving requirements. 

This story was updated at 8:23 pm. to include LAUSD’s response.

Tags Education Education in California Los Angeles Unified School District National School Lunch Act Rand Paul

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