W. Virginia Republican: Make Poor School Kids Work For Food

Historical Photo of Child Chimey Sweep in Great Britain

Chim-Chim-e-ney, Chim-Chim-e-ney, Chim, Chim, Cheroo, I is what I is, and I does whats I do …”Image of child laborer as chimney sweep in early 20th century Great Britain from fyeah-history.tumblr.com.

In response to a shocking 2012 national survey revealing that three out of five American teachers report hunger in their classrooms, West Virginia’s House of Delegates passed a bill to address childhood hunger, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 89-9. Tyler Kingkade from The Huffington Post reports that SB633 — also known as the “Feed to Achieve” Act — will provide free breakfasts and lunches to all K-12 public school students, and make up for any budgetary shortfalls by establishing non-profit organizations to collect donations. W. VA Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to sign the bill into law.

Feeding hungry children without increasing government spending seems like a no-brainer, right? Especially since West Virginia’s children are nearly twice as likely to live in impoverished neighborhoods as other U.S. children, and the state ranks a dismal 47th place in the U.S. for academic achievement, according to a 2004 report from the Kids Count Fund (PDF). But of course there always has to be a long pole in the big tent … and of course the long pole turns out to be a Republican.

State Delegate Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbriar), turned the proceedings into a fiery debate when he claimed that school children should be required to work for their school lunches:

I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed. If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.

And as if this doesn’t sound sufficiently offensive, Eric Eyre from The West Virginia Gazette adds that Canterbury doubled down on his callous cruelty by claiming the free meals would set kids up for failure by “destroying their work ethic” and “showing them there’s an easy way.”

Delegate Meshea Poore (D-Kanawha) angrily responded:

I’m offended anybody in this body would dare say a child has to work for their meals. I can’t believe someone would say a first-grader, a second-grader … a fifth-grader has to labor before they eat. This isn’t an entitlement bill.

If this sounds all-too familiar, that’s because back in December the perennial presidential candidate and windbag, Newt Gingrich, chastised those lazy low-income children and called for making them work as janitors in their schools. Do these Republicans ever stop looking for ways to obtain and exploit low-cost or free labor? If you take a long, hard look at their anti-labor, anti-welfare policies, you’ll see that conservative southerners are still pro-slavery, but they no longer care about the skin color of their would-be serfs.

Elisabeth Parker Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, “friend” her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Pinterest boards. For more Addicting Info articles by Elisabeth, click here.