Are Elizabeth school officials benefiting from lunch program?

August 23, 2011 2:46:21 PM PDT
An investigation into a school lunch program is underway at the school district in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

The question is whether some district employees are taking advantage of it.

"There's a lot of key people over there who have all played roles politcally, who have benefitted from this free lunch program," Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said.

Bollwage admits he is often at odds with his board of education, but he is not alone in calling for an investigation here.

Top education officials in Elizabeth applied for free lunches for their children, even though their incomes do not qualify.

They include school principal Carlos Lucio and school board president Marie Lynn Munn.

"The bottom line is there's a lot of corruption in New Jersey and it needs to be cleaned up, and what you see with all these free lunches in Elizabeth is just the tip of the iceberg," State Senator Michael Doherty said.

Students of low income families are entitled to free lunch. School districts report their numbers of children qualified, often without oversight from the state.

Senator Doherty points out the stakes are much higher than the budget for free lunches.

"So if you sign a student up for free lunch, not only do you get the free lunch, but you get another 5-thousand dollars in school aid on top of what you would previously be scheduled to get," he said.

And critics say the extra money often goes toward political patronage. At a health fair in downtown Elizabeth, we asked parents about the idea of cheating on free lunches.

"It's not that much...that they pay a dollar fifty cents every day. That's not too much," Jenny Roman said.

"Eventually, you know, the kids are gonna get hurt," Mayor Bollwage said.