HISSES to the news that came from our Saturday report, which shows more than $400,000 of unpaid lunch balances were left for the state's public school districts to endure at the end of the 2017-18 year.
That number is a total from all the school districts that answered our information requests — with about 15 percent of districts not responding.
What's sad is knowing there are hundreds of families in South Dakota who cannot afford to pay for their child, or children's, lunch. Last year, South Dakota lawmakers voted down a bill that helped students avoid "lunch shaming." Under the bill, students who had negative account balances wouldn't be publicly identified by being forced to wear a wristband or hand stamp or by being required to do work to pay for meals. It also required all public and private schools that participate in the national school lunch program to provide a meal to any student who requests one.
South Dakota, unfortunately, has no statewide policies about how schools handle situations in which students can't pay for lunch.
But seeing this dollar figure is concerning. Considering the frequency in which schools endure students with negative lunch account balances, we certainly hope the state can help solve this problem moving forward before it gets significantly worse.
CHEERS to all the attendees of Dakotafest's forums last week.
Seven people for two major South Dakota races — U.S. House and governor — stood in front of their potential constituents to answer questions on major topics during Mitchell's annual agriculture festival. Sure, these forums got heated, at times, with some attendees specifically calling out candidates. But it's important for those candidates is to be present in one collective setting to hear ideas and thoughts of South Dakotans.
One major gubernatorial candidate, Kristi Noem, chose to attend Dakotafest on Tuesday and skip the forum on Wednesday.
We're not sure the reasoning behind the U.S. congresswoman's absence, other than her campaign team saying, "She is unable to attend, unfortunately," but missing the forum at Mitchell's Dakotafest is a head-scratcher. Becasue South Dakota's leading industry is agriculture, isn't Dakotafest the perfect place to take forum questions?