AUBURN — Resident Tim Doughty told the School Committee on Wednesday night that he doesn't think feeding all students should be the responsibility of taxpayers.
“What brings me here tonight is an article in the paper. … Free breakfast offered to all students. What's that all about?
Committee Chairman Tom Kendall said that the School Department wants all children to start school each day after eating breakfast, that the goal is the cost will be covered by federal and state money, not local tax dollars.
Auburn's new breakfast program is supported by the Maine Department of Education. Research shows students feel better and learn better when they start the school day after breakfast, according to the state department. Many poor students aren't eating breakfast at school. Research shows there's a stigma that would be eliminated when school breakfast is offered to all regardless of income, according to the Maine Department of Education.
Doughty complained that whether the money comes from the federal, state or city, “it is taxpayer money.” The program is “very reminiscent of iPads.” Those programs “all cost money. At this point in time in the economy, it's hard for people.”
He asked the committee to reconsider the free breakfast.
“My wife and I are on fixed incomes,” he said, and higher taxes means they have to cut spending.
Giving free breakfast to all students “when you come forward saying 'we need more money' is hard to swallow,” he said.
Doughty urged taxpayers to vote no on the school budget May 8.
Committee member Larry Pelletier defended offering free breakfast for all students. They deserve “the opportunity to start their day with a full stomach, whether they get it at home or school. That was the intent,” he said.
Committee member Bonnie Hayes said the free breakfast for all is a pilot program from now until June. If it costs too much or doesn't do what's expected, “we don't have to do it next year,” she said.