An open records request filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation about LifeSkills Academy, a religious voucher school which closed its doors in mid-December stranding students, has uncovered that it was removed from federal meal programs in March 2012 for appalling violations of federal school lunch program rules.
LifeSkills Academy has received $2.3 million state voucher money since 2008, yet only one of 56 students in grades 3-8 had tested proficient in reading or math in 2012 state exams.
The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction wrote Taron Monroe, school superintendent of the controversial school, on June 28, 2011, outlining a series of allegations over mismanagement over school lunch programs.
The shocking allegations included:
- Falsification of applications (parent signatures and dates) "by both you and Pastor Rodney"
- Serving food as part of the National School Lunch Program that came from pantries and was expired
- Serving children Ramen noodles with hot sauce and a cup of water for lunch, which does not meet reimbursability requirements for breakfasts and lunches
- Serving KoolAid in place of juice
- Serving moldy apple juice
- "Cutting" whole milk with water
- Counting students even if not present for meals
- "Repeated issues with bats."
An official with the Department of Public Instruction wrote a letter to Monroe that such "concerns are unacceptable and, if validated, are out of compliance with the federal and state regulations that govern the National School Lunch Program."
Ultimately, in March 2012, LifeSkills Academy was cut off from federal meals programs, and was told "claims for reimbursement will not be paid for September 2011 through February 2012."
The open records request was filed by FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott. "This horror story should wake up our state to the fact that Wisconsin's voucher program is failed and is subsidizing incompetent schools," Elliott commented.
"We're deeply concerned that this couple has now set up a voucher school in Florida drawing public funds," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.