Monday night, the Knox County School Board held their work session in preparation for the Thursday voting meeting. Not one Board Member asked a question about this contract to employ a debt collector for unpaid lunch debts.
Then Keith Britt, Knox County Citizen, Husband, Father of Triplets, Community Activist spoke at Public Forum about this contract. Watch it here.
I asked the following questions of Knox County Schools after the work session.
What is the amount of unpaid lunch fees to date that will be given to the vendor? How far back will the vendor collect? Just this year, last five years or all uncollected lunch debts?
Here are the answers I received today,
No accounts have been sent to collections since the end of the 2018-19 school year. However, prior to that, AP-E-191 was followed for the submission of bad debt to the collection agency. At the end of the fiscal year, an analysis is done on the unpaid meal debt to determine which accounts will be referred to the collection agency. In SY 19-20, the BOE suspended the policy upon our request. In SY 20-21 and SY 21-22, there was no unpaid meal debt due to waivers from the federal government to feed all students at no cost.
As of Monday morning, the amount of unpaid meal debt was greater than $205,000.00. We will not know how much could possibly be referred to the collection agency until the end of the fiscal year. It is important to note that the collection agency is used in order to ensure compliance with BOE Policy E-191.
It is my understanding that the federal waiver does not expire until Summer 2023. With the increased cost of groceries, in particular eggs. Is it really time to begin putting the twisted arm debt collections on the families of our school children? Should parents have to get another job in order to pay this debt and be away from their kids another 10 hours a week.
A hungry student is not a student that can learn, grow and develop into the next generation of tomorrows community. The Knox County Commission on a regular basis approve line item transfers for hundreds of thousands and some times millions.
I hope Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs can find this money to keep students learning, parents engaged with their families and Guido unemployed.