Bad Incentives

Whenever the government gives away free stuff, no matter who they’re giving it to, it leads to bad incentives:

The cost of free and reduced-price lunch programs is entirely covered by federal funding, which means that increases in the use of the program do not directly impact District 196’s finances. But the district is affected in other ways, Olson and Knight said.

District officials have put more energy and resources into encouraging families to apply for the free and reduced-price lunch program, and sending out notices in a variety of publications and online media, Olson and Knight said. The district also has a breakfast program that is well-attended by free and reduced lunch enrollees.

While the article makes claims that the number of families enrolled in the reduced-price lunch program is a good indicator of economic turmoil I think they failed to consider the interests of the schools. When a school gets a family on reduced-price lunch they no longer have to foot the bill for that lunch, therefore it’s in their best interest to get as many families on reduced-price lunch as possible so they can pocket more money.

It’s easy to see why every school would attempt to push every family onto the reduced-price lunch program, it means more money that can be stuffed into the pockets of the already well paid administrators.