Waukesha School Board reverses decision; will provide free meals for all

A local controversy making national news.

The Waukesha School Board Monday night reversed its decision on school lunches — meaning all students in the district can now receive free meals.

The about-face comes after raucous meetings and threats to school board members.

This was a two-and-a-half-hour discussion that included a passionate debate between board members on how to best feed students.

Waukesha School Board meeting

Ultimately, the board will enter a federal program to provide free meals, but that decision didn't come without drama.

First correcting the record on comments that drew hateful voicemails like these.

"Your school board is made up of hateful, loathsome, evil monsters. I hope they come for you with torches and pitchforks," one voicemail said.

"You should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves for absolutely passing this. I wanted to let you know: the world is absolutely watching you and disgusted by Wisconsin and particularly Waukesha," said another.

"How dare you? Become spoiled because they get to eat? Food is now something that you are spoiled about? I hope you go home and somebody takes your paycheck because you might be getting a little spoiled," said another voicemail.

Responding to claims made by one board member that the free lunches were for spoiled children.

"The spoiled I referred to is me. It's all of us if we rely on this system when we can provide for ourselves," said Karin Rajnicek.

The Waukesha School Board debated accepting federal money for a school lunch program before a standing-room-only crowd Monday night.

Standing-room-only at the Waukesha School Board meeting Monday night

"It's the student that stands there when there isn't money to pay the bill. It's the student that has to go back and sit at the table, and I've seen it hundreds of times," said Deets.

The seamless summer option program gives free meals to all students — regardless of income status.

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Waukesha School Board meeting

In June, the board voted to return to the national school lunch program which provides free and reduced meals to students.. after families fill out income eligibility forms.

Some board members said they wouldn't bow to 'mob pressure'

"I am not supporting a change of course to this program, because it's wasteful and irresponsible, and I am not gonna back down to bullies," said Piacsek.

But in another narrow vote.

The board voted 5-to-4 in favor of free meals just two days before the start of classes.

Opponents were also concerned that in giving free meals, families won't fill out income forms that provide the district with data to secure funding for other programs.

The board says it will work to find ways to reach those families will still providing free meals.

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