A school district in the United States has decided to offer free meals to parents in order to help them afford their school expenses.
Akron Public Schools said it is considering providing free meals as a response to a “significant increase” in student-to-teacher ratios.
Akrons school board will be voting on the matter in the coming days.
The move follows a petition from the school’s parent group to the state of Ohio, which requires districts to provide free meals for all students, even those who do not attend school.
AkRON, OhioAkron, OhioIn February, the Ohio State Department of Education said that there was a “clear correlation between teacher turnover and students’ academic outcomes and attendance”.
A study by the Ohio Department of Policy and Management (OPM) found that while there was no “significantly greater academic impact” for students who received free meals than students who did not, there were significant differences in student performance.
The OPM found that “a significant number of schools with high-performing students and low teacher turnover experienced reductions in student achievement”.
The report also found that the “most severe impacts of teacher turnover” were experienced by “schools with the highest levels of teacher attrition”.
Akron School District spokesman Scott Hodge said the move will allow parents to “gain insight into the quality of their children’s education” and to make informed decisions about their childrens education.
A spokesman for the state’s Department of Public Instruction said that while it is common practice for districts to offer student meal vouchers to students, the decision to offer the free meals “is not an endorsement of the district’s current student meal program”.
He said the department was reviewing its current student meals program.
Akrone’s chief of staff, Jeff McKeever, said the school district had been “in conversation” with the state about offering free meals.
“We want to help families to make decisions about where they want to go to school,” he said.
“So we are considering offering this to parents, who we have had to offer in the past and we will continue to do so.”
School board member and parent of a student in the district, who asked not to be named, said she was pleased with the decision.
“I think this is an opportunity for families to see their child in the classroom and have that support and have an opportunity to go,” she said.
“We just hope it doesn’t come at the expense of our teachers, our principals, our administrators, or our students.”
A spokesman said the decision was made “after thoughtful consideration” and that it would be up to the governor’s office to decide whether to extend the free meal to all students.
A similar scheme has been proposed by New York City schools.
The city has already offered free meals, with an average attendance of more than half the student body, to parents.
The initiative has been criticised for its cost and perceived bias.
The free meals were initially introduced in 2013 to help pay for a $2 billion school renovation and expansion project.
The scheme has since been expanded to include $1,200 in annual school aid payments for every child enrolled.