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State Senate candidate opposes free meals for kids

Posted: August 5, 2012 - 12:09am

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage school board member and state Senate candidate Don Smith says he opposes more free meals for poor students in Anchorage.

Smith opposes a proposal to provide boxed meals at 12 after-school programs for at-risk kids, The Anchorage Daily News reported in Saturday’s newspaper.

The cost would be more than half a million dollars, but the federal government would fully reimburse the district.

Smith said he is against the plan because it would add to the national debt. Plus, the district would have to spend money to store, distribute and handle the meals.

“I just think somewhere we’ve got to draw a line in the sand,” he said. “I’m concerned that the school district is moving into a program that expands the entitlement mentality that we have in Alaska and our school district.”

In an interview, he said that although he’s a legislative candidate, he was reacting to the proposal as a member of the school board.

“Philosophically, I have a real problem with it,” he said. “I think our country’s gone to hell in a hand basket. We’re just about to become Greece.”

Smith is running in the Republican primary for the open state Senate District H seat, which covers a broad swath of Midtown. Both he and his primary opponent, Clint Hess, call themselves conservative.

When asked his opinion, Hess said he was not sure whether the district should provide the boxed meals: “No one benefits from trying to educate hungry kids, but we do have to strike a balance.”

State Rep. Berta Gardner, a Democrat who is unopposed for her Senate District H primary, said Smith needs to find a different issue.

“I would say you don’t take a stand on principle at the expense of hungry children,” she said. “I’ve talked to a lot of school nurses who spend their own money for snacks” for hungry kids who come to see them for a health problem.”

Smith expects to be in the minority at Monday’s school board meeting.

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