State Rep. Burnett Joins Rehberg in GOP War on School Lunch
State Rep. Tom Burnett has delivered the latest blow in Montana Republicans' war against school lunch, claiming that "Expanded free school lunch is unwarranted" in a self-released 'report' called "Hunger in America: the Myth"
The Bozeman Tea Party Republican wants to stop school lunch expansion because he believes "Poor kids, those qualified for free lunch, throw away more food than those that pay full price" [p. 13 of the same 'report'].
In early October, Congressman Dennis Rehberg interrogated school officials with similar accusations of waste, fraud and abuse in the Montana school lunch program:
Rehberg asked [his sister and school district official Brenda Koch] pointed questions about fraud and whether families ever dupe the free and reduced-price meal system.
Koch explained that each year, a random sample of families who sign up and qualify are audited by the district to make sure they meet the income guidelines.
On top of that, she said, the district is audited by the state every year on how its Title I dollars are spent.
"Congressman Rehberg and Rep. Burnett's attacks on school lunch for poor students are completely irresponsible and out of touch," said Ted Dick, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party. "But sadly these attacks are not surprising, given the increasingly extreme direction of the same Montana Republican Party that insists on giving tax breaks to millionaires, while turning their backs on Medicare and Pell Grants."
Unusual initiatives like Congressman Rehberg and Rep. Burnett's investigations into school lunch "fraud" have gained national attention and raised concerns:
- HEADLINE: "Tea Party Vision for Montana raising concerns," "Their state would be a place where officials can ignore U.S. laws, force FBI agents to get a sheriff's OK before arresting anyone, ban abortions, limit sex education in schools and create armed citizen militias. It's the tea party world. But not everyone is buying their vision." [AP, 2/24/11]
- HEADLINE: "National media focuses on Montana Legislature": "Bills put forth in this session of the Legislature have attracted attention, ranging from videos posted on YouTube of testimony in committees, to mock-conservative comedian Steven Colbert joking on “The Colbert Report” about a Montana House bill declaring that greenhouse gases are not harmful and that global warming is a natural phenomenon that is beneficial to Montana. " [Havre Daily News, 3/18/11]
- HEADLINE: "Session watchers weigh in on the Montana Legislature": "So far conservatives made aggressive moves to cut spending, roll back long-standing environmental regulations and defy the federal government on issues ranging from health care reform to the execution of federal search warrants.