TOMS RIVER – Gov. Chris Christie said the larger message to be taken from today’s Comptroller’s report that found widespread fraud in the school lunch program is the need to change the state aid funding formula.
The Comptroller’s office disclosed more than 100 people – whose names have been turned over for possible criminal prosecution – who falsely listed income levels in order to get approved for a lunch program that is supposed to help those children most in need.
Christie said focusing just on the individuals who allegedly lied to obtain benefits they did not deserve is missing the forest for the trees. “The real reason for school districts to be complicit in this is it increases their aid under this crazy school aid funding formula,’’ he said.
He pointed to a portion in the Comptroller’s report that showed that “school districts have barbecues to induce families to come out and sign up for the program right before they have to submit their numbers to the state.”
“I’m urging the Legislature to rethink the way we do this school funding,’’ he said, because “A lot of it is based on numbers that are clearly fraudulent.” The system induces people to lie, he said.
He called the acts of the people involved “absurd and obscene,’’ and even joked with some gallows humor that underscored the extent of the lunch program abuse, “Apparently I’m the only person not getting a free school lunch.”
He criticized the state Supreme Court for imposing on the state this school aid formula that invites this kind of abuse.