Should menial school lunch debts be turned over to debt collection agencies? That's the question many are asking in one Rhode Island community after a school district turned over thousands of dollars in school lunch debt to a collection agency.
What are the details?
According to WJAR-TV, the Cranston School District, which is located just outside Rhode Island's capital city of Providence, opted to report tens of thousands of dollars worth of students' school lunch debts to a collection agency, which will begin attempting to recover the debts next month.
Raymond Votto Jr., chief operating officer of the school district, explained to parents that the district decided to retain the collection agency after previous efforts to recover the debts were unsuccessful.
Votto explained that between Sept. 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018, the school district paid off nearly $100,000 worth of school lunch debt. And for this academic year alone, students have already accrued $45,859 worth of school lunch debt, a problem the district can no longer afford. Standard lunches in the district cost elementary students $2.50 and $3.25 for middle and high school students.
"The district lunch program cannot continue to lose revenue," Votto wrote to parents.
To soften the blow, Votto told WJAR that the collection agency will not call parents with unpaid debts, but rather inform them of their debt in a letter. Parents whose student has more than $20 worth of unpaid lunch debt that is more than 60 days overdue will be subject to the collection agency.
Will students with outstanding debt be denied lunch?
Despite the financial importance of collecting the debts, Votto told WJAR that students with outstanding debt will not be denied lunch; the district will still provide them with the same entrée as paying students.
"We're feeding the children. That's not in dispute. We offer free breakfast," Votto said.