Senator Michael Doherty, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, commended Attorney General Paula Dow for her investigation of allegations of corruption and fraud in the National School Lunch Program in the Elizabeth school district. According to published reports in the Star-Ledger, the president of the Elizabeth Board of Education, a school principal, and a supervisor of custodians, all have children enrolled in the free or reduced price lunch program, even though their incomes appear to significantly exceed the level needed to qualify for the program.
Doherty noted a June 2011 report, issued by the State Auditor, Stephen Eells, which found that 37% of the students signed up for the free and reduced price lunch program were actually ineligible.
Doherty stated, “The State Auditor recently found that 37% of the students signed up for the free and reduced price lunch program in New Jersey were actually ineligible. Thus, it appears that the type of fraud uncovered in Elizabeth may be rampant.
“I urge the Attorney General to immediately expand her investigation to include all the districts in the state. Under New Jersey’s system for funding schools, enrolling a student in the free and reduced price lunch program triggers an ‘At Risk’ designation for the student, which results in an additional $5,000-7,000 of state school aid under New Jersey’s school funding formula.
“If you consider that 428,000 students are enrolled in the free and reduced price lunch program, a 37% error rate may result in a fraud totaling nearly $1 billion per year.”