(WMC) - Free breakfast, lunch and dinner for Shelby County Schools students have education advocates worried. They are concerned the new rules could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funds for other school services.
Parents no longer need to fill out income forms for free lunch, but education leaders say a portion of the $193 million SCS receives in overall federal funds hinges on parents filling out a new form.
The new rules say school systems with a 70 percent low-income student population automatically receive free meals. With that, some parents are confused about the need to fill out the new Tennessee Department of Education Household Information Survey form.
"Fill out the forms," school board member Sara Lewis said.
Lewis is making a plea to parents to turn in the form, which was distributed during registration.
"I cannot imagine what would happen to this city, if we did not get that coverage," she said.
The forms, which include household income, are no longer linked to free lunches, but education advocates worry if the federal government does not have an accurate account of low-income students, SCS could lose millions of dollars in annual federal funds for other services.
A SCS spokesperson said, "the district uses the socio-economic Title I data for a variety of reasons, including our academic and instructional services. Also, many competitive and discretionary grants require this information."
Many parents agree with Lewis.
"The federal funds need to go on and continue the way they are. Therefore, everyone needs to fill them out," mother Jessica Anthony said.
"We don't want everything to go away because of one shortfall on information. It doesn't seem that much to give some basic information," resident Mary Kleinman said.
Lewis hopes parents feel no suspicion about filling out the new form.
"We cannot afford not to do this," she said.
The school system says they're confident parents will come through.