The latest free and reduced-lunch eligibility numbers are in, and they have changed a bit.
About 45.3 percent of Idaho students are eligible for federal lunch subsidies.
That’s still down from a year ago — and it could mean that about 5,000 fewer students are eligible for assistance. But the 45.3 percent figure is up from the original numbers released earlier this month. Those numbers caught the State Department of Education by surprise, so the department asked local school officials to doublecheck their math.
The free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rates are important, because they are widely used as a way to measure student poverty. They are often used to determine grant eligibility. And under a new law signed by Gov. Brad Little Friday, the state could eventually use these rates to define economically disadvantaged students — and, perhaps, allocate added dollars for schools with higher numbers of disadvantaged students.
In early April, the SDE posted a free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rate of about 44 percent — a significant drop from a 47 percent rate from the previous year. But at the same time, the SDE asked schools to review their own numbers, and turn in any revisions by Friday.
After the review, most numbers remained unchanged. But 36 districts and charters reported new numbers.
In 31 cases, districts and charters adjusted their rates upward — reporting higher numbers of students who were eligible for lunch subsidies.
Some of these increases were large, and foreshadowed in an Idaho Education News story last week. Vision Charter School in Caldwell reported a 25.4 percentage point increase in eligibility rates. The Ririe School District reported a 24.9 percentage point increase, and Emmett reported a 21.7 percentage point increase.
Three other districts and a second charter school reported increases of at least 10 percentage points.
But in five districts and charters, the tables were turned. As these schools redid their math, they actually reported decreases — finding that fewer students were eligible for subsidies.
In the aggregate, a statewide drop from 47 percent eligibility to 45.3 percent is still noteworthy.
Factored against a total statewide enrollment of about 300,000 students, this could mean that about 5,000 fewer students are eligible for federal lunch subsidies.