Oh, the tragedy. It seems as the school year winds to a close, some Columbia County children once again are being sentenced to a lunch of bread and water because they've fallen too far behind in their meal payments.
Of course, the slices of bread have peanut butter and jelly between them. And instead of water they have a choice of milk to drink. Undoubtedly there are millions of people in the world who would find themselves blessed to have such a nutritious, if minimal, meal.
Our entitlement-minded society tends to view it a little differently, though, with school officials practically agonizing over cutting back to PB&J and milk for kids who've overextended their lunch-money credit.
As a result, that debt has become pretty hefty each school year, piling up one unpaid lunch or breakfast at a time across the system's 30 schools. It's added up this year to as much as $30,000, though school officials say they're gradually whittling it down a few thousand at a time as the number of days left in the year slip away and the debts become all but uncollectible.
Columbia County is far from unique with the problem, of course. The economic squeeze increases the likelihood that struggling families all across Georgia will try to get a free meal or two for their kids, yet it also means school systems have more incentive to get every penny owed to shore up sagging budgets.
Cutting to a bare-bones menu isn't the most drastic solution, either. Brantley County, for example, recently turned its $20,000 school lunch debt over to a private collection agency.
That agency, by the way, will slap a 40 percent interest charge on every overdue lunch tab. Not even playground bullies get that much from lunch money.
Suddenly, that PB&J sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
The bottom line of all this is that no one wants children punished because their parents aren't fulfilling their responsibilities for seeing to it that their children are fed. Yet taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for parents who dodge their duties.
Perhaps if the school system could figure out a way to make those debt-dodging parents eat PB&J until they pay up, we'd erase that deficit pretty quickly.
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