2015-03-01 19:06
Schools reduce free meal programs for first time
By Jung Min-ho

The number of schools offering free lunches was reduced for the first time, and is expected to decrease further, according to the Ministry of Education Sunday.

A total of 7,805 out of 11,573 high, middle and elementary schools nationwide, or 67.4 percent, offer free lunches to their students now. Last year, 8,351 schools out of 11,483, or 72.7 percent, offered the service.

While the percentage of elementary schools offering free lunches deceased from 94.1 to 87.3, middle and high school meals slid from 76.3 to 72.2 and 13.3 to 10.1, respectively.

With the education office in South Gyeongsang Province planning to stop the service from April, the number is expected to decrease further.

The decrease comes because schools are scaling down free lunches and other projects as local governments and regional education offices struggle to secure a budget for free education for preschool children, which was a key campaign pledge of President Park Geun-hye.

Only 1,812 schools offered free lunches in 2009. But the number increased quickly in a few years as politicians responded to parents’ increasing demand for it.

But, as the President tries to stick with her campaign pledge of “welfare benefits without a tax hike,” politicians, teachers and parents have argued over where the limited education budget should be spent.