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When liberals succeed

By Oliver Del Signore

Oliver Del Signore

May 7, 2001

Why are liberals surprised when their programs work? The answer, of course, is that they almost never work as intended. Take the case of the Holyoke, Massachusetts school system vs. some deadbeat parents.

Holyoke has a policy that no child shall go hungry. It is also a city where most of the children already receive free or reduced rate lunches, while the rest pay 80 cents per day for nutritional powerhouses like macaroni & cheese or chicken nuggets. If they do not have the 80 cents, or simply want more food than they can pay for, their "account" is charged with the expectation the parents will pay up. And most do.

But several hundreds of parents have not been paying so the Holyoke School Committee voted to start suing deadbeat parents in small claims court to recover the funds, which totaled more than $30,000 last year.

Kellie Goulding, co-president of Holyoke's E.N. White Elementary School PTO agrees that parents should pay their delinquent lunch bills, but "part of me feels it would be a waste of money to take them to court." However, the money is not Goulding's primary concern. " biggest fear is that children will go hungry." A school committee member thinks the idea is little mean spirited. And food services director William O'Brien, concerned because the lunch program is supported by lunch fees and state reimbursements, said, "It's increasingly difficult to have the program be self-supporting."

I'm puzzled. How does Mr. O'Brien imagine a "program" that relies on taxpayer funds can be described as "self-supporting." I thought such a description applied to "programs" where user fees paid the bill. But then, I'm not part of the education establishment and it is entirely possible words mean different things in that venue.

And why it is "mean-spirited" to expect people to pay for the things they – or their children – consume? Perhaps, because so many other children get their lunches for free, the committee member thinks all children should get their lunches courtesy of the already overburdened Massachusetts taxpayers.

Then there is Ms. Goulding's concern about wasting money taking the deadbeats to court. She's right about that one, of course. It's always a waste of money to attempt to force people to live up to their obligations when they know there will be no real consequences if they do not.

What really interests me about this story, though, is why it is even a story; why anyone is surprised by the lack of responsibility shown by so many parents. As School Committeman Michael Moriarity said, "at the elementary school level we know there are some parents who send their children in with no food and expect us to feed them...They are blowing us off."

And why shouldn't they?

The "no child shall go hungry" policy really says all children are entitled to eat lunch. Period. And if you are entitled to something, you get it whether you can pay for it or not. That is the definition of entitlement. In Holyoke, this concept is reinforced by the majority of kids being entitled to free or reduced cost lunches.

Is it any wonder then that other parents, perhaps those who make just a bit too much to qualify for the "free" or "reduced" programs, might also feel entitled to something for nothing? Can we really blame them for not paying up?

Liberals created an atmosphere of entitlement yet now seem perplexed that people take them at their word and feel entitled. Their ideology has succeeded beyond their imagination. Why aren't they celebrating their success? After all, this is what they have been working toward for almost fifty years. This is 21st century America, where no one needs to take responsibility for anything any more, not even for feeding their own children.

Oliver Del Signore is a freelance writer, proofreader, creative consultant, website designer, and the webmaster for Backwoods Home Magazine. He welcomes comments and inquiries via email to

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      Please address comments regarding this page to editor[at] Comments may appear in the "Letters" section of Backwoods Home Magazine. Although every email is read, busy schedules generally do not permit personal responses.


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