For state and local government, no such thing as a free school lunch

A school lunch in Tartu (Postimees/Scanpix)
1/5/2015 11:23 AM
Category: Education

The 'free lunches to all students' pledge, claimed by both the Social Democrats and the Center Party, can only be implemented if local municipalities do their part, says Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski.

“The state can financially support school lunches and a local government can add to it to guarantee the lunches are free,” he said, adding that if local governments do not want to use the additional funds to implement the pledge, they have to explain to their residents where that money will now go.

As of January 1, the government will pay schools 78 cents for each lunch they serve to secondary school students, although that generally only covers food costs, not labor. The pledge does not mean all older school children will get a fully-paid lunch. Previously the state had paid for lunches for primary school children.

Tartu Deputy Mayor Tiia Teppan (Reform Party), said Tartu did not budget for the government's plan and children will have to pay part of their lunch as total costs vary between 1.36 and 1.90 euros, meaning a child will have to stump up 58 cents to 1.12 euros.

The ministry said it currently does not know how many schools are now offering completely free lunches and how many are charging the difference.

M. Nael, J.M. Laats

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