During a recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos made a joke questioning if schools should provide free lunch.
In her opening remarks, DeVos joked that she was the “first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face, there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” NPR reports. However, DeVos’ comment comes after the nation’s free lunch program has come under attack by Republicans.
Criticism of DeVos comes at a time when many people are raising questions about whether the new administration will protect food aid programs for children, NPR reported.
Just last year, Republicans introduced a bill that could have potentially blocked thousands of schools from offering free lunch to all public school students. Reports showed that if passed, the new piece of legislation would have revoke eligibility for millions of students.
According to the Washington Post, Republicans didn’t manage to get the bill passed, arguing that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money as it subsidized the meals of kids who could afford to pay for them. More specifically, the bill sought to reform the minimum eligibility criteria for receiving free lunch.
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However, Democrats argue that providing free lunch to all students reduces the stigma attached to getting free meals at school, Yahoo News writes. “Students are free to eat without being categorized and stigmatized, and this has created a wonderful climate of equality and cooperation,” said Jill Pruitt, an eighth-grade counselor in Georgia.
Reports show that approximately 31 million American school children qualify for free lunch, the majority of them being students of color.
Following DeVos’ comments, the Internet gave her no mercy while sharing the value of free/reduced lunches for students across the country.
This isn’t the first time that DeVos has been in the spotlight since being sworn in on Feb. 7. Just a few weeks ago, she received harsh criticism after the Department of Education misspelled iconic sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois’ name in a tweet.