June 2008 Up Front

Fuel, food costs feed the budget beast

You don’t have to go to a gas station or supermarket to see that fuel and food costs are on the rise. Just stop by the school cafeteria, bus barn, or even an overcrowded classroom.

The third example, of course, is less likely. But districts are being so pinched by rising food and fuel costs that many have talked about raising lunch prices, curbing athletic and field trips, and cutting teaching and support staff positions to balance the 2008-09 budget.

With gas prices up $1 a gallon more than expected, Kentucky’s Hardin County School District is spending $8,000 a day to bus students. That cost, along with declines in state revenue, led to budget cuts of more than $4 million during the middle of the year, Superintendent Nannette Johnson said.

That $4 million figure is what Miami-Dade County Schools is expected to pay for milk this year, an increase of 47 percent over 2006-07.

“We do not want to serve our students highly refined sugar and flour products, which are more affordable,” Penny Parham, the district’s administrative director of food and nutrition, told the House Education and Labor Committee in Washington, D.C., in April. “But we are continually being pushed down this path.”

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