School meal plan needs revisionThe opposition Democratic Party members are fully enjoying their dominance on the Seoul Metropolitan Council.
They turned Seoul Plaza into a podium for political demonstrations by simplifying regulations so that organizers can hold rallies with a simple notification rather than getting approval after a public debate or hearing.
Now they have unilaterally approved the bill to expand free school lunches. They skipped any serious debate or consultation with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and their ruling party counterparts. Having long served in the minority, they have been getting payback at the expense of Seoul’s citizens.
Expanding free school lunches to all students in Seoul remains controversial. The move would come at the expense of urgent school renovation projects and education supplies because of limited budgets.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education allocated 116.2 billion won ($101.9 million) to provide free lunches to 260,000 children in the first three grades of elementary schools.
To pay for the program, it cut 185 billion won in spending to rebuild and renovate schools.
By providing free meals to wealthy children, children in poor neighborhoods will suffer as a result from the lack of school upgrading.
Lunch is not the primary concern for children from broken and poor families. They often do not eat well during school breaks and vacation.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government instead proposed that free school lunches be provided to the poorest 30 percent of students, up from the current 8 percent, and that meal subsidies be given to them for school breaks. But the opposition party turned a deaf ear to alternative ideas and pushed forward with their original plan. Seoul is currently saddled with debts of 3.25 trillion won, and affiliated organizations with liabilities of more than 16 trillion won. The council members should have thought more on rationalizing budget spending in line with Seoul’s austerity pledges.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon was equally irresponsible for deliberately missing the council session. He should have made his stand at the council and sought cooperation from the elected council members.
The legislation to provide free lunches will take time to go into effect. In the meantime, it should be voted on again and even taken to court. Instead of taking the fight to extremes, the two political parties and city hall must seek a solution that best benefits our children.