Government Shutdown Could Impact School Funding Locally


As the government shutdown continues some local schools are growing more concerned.

Right now, the shutdown means no funding for free and reduced priced meals.

In the Tri-Cities, 41 percent of Kearney Public School students rely on that meal. At Hastings Public, that number is 58 percent, and 70 percent of Grand Island Public School students receive free or reduced price lunches.

All schools say they'll continue to fund the program.

For 88 percent of the students at Jefferson Elementary in Grand Island, lunch is on the federal government.

"Some count on this as being their core meal for the day and when they're worried about basic needs, it's hard to worry about math," said Principal Jeanna Fiala.

The free and reduced lunch program is a $400,000 monthly bill for G.I.P.S.

The government shutdown means the district doesn't know when they'll get their normal reimbursement.

"We will feed kids," said G.I.P.S. Executive Director of Business Virgil Harden. "If the federal government doesn't step up to the plate with reimbursement, we'll feel the pain."

If the shutdown continues, school officials say students could be directly impacted.

"If this would go on for one year, things would have to change drastically as far as what we served and how," said Harden,

If October's reimbursement doesn't come as scheduled at the end of November G.I.P.S. will likely ask the Nebraska Department of Education for a loan that would allow them to move general fund dollars to the lunch fund.

It's a cash flow issue students won't even notice.

The district is also ready if other federal programs – like Title I or Title III - are impacted.

"We haven't received any notice from the Nebraska Department of Education saying there are issues with that money and that flow, so we don't know. We're just preparing ourselves," said Harden.

No matter how long the shutdown drags on, school officials are expecting a check eventually.

"When the federal government learns what we all did in kindergarten – We get along with others, we work things out, we work together - they'll be reimbursed and we'll be back running smoothly again," said Fiala.

G.I.P.S.'s Build America bonds could also be impacted.

Harden says he doesn't know when or if the district will be getting their $80,000 credit from the federal government.