I really have to take my hat off to Wylie’s Candy Arrington. She is the mastermind behind Wylie is HOPE, a group formed to assist others less fortunate within our community (http://wylieishope.com/). Candy, with the help of WISD Trustee Stacy Gooch, continues to raise the bar and serve ever increasing numbers of Wylie’s impoverished students by providing them with free backpacks, supplies, and services such as haircuts and donated school clothes. Every year I am amazed at the hard work, unwavering dedication, and community effort that is put into this event.
That said, I wonder if anyone reading this blog understands the gravity of our poverty levels in Wylie. I wonder if anyone realizes what the income levels are of those 800 served the first 30 minutes the event was opened according to The Wylie News article in today’s paper. The papers that are provided and the news articles that are written about the food program seem to spare the families of embarrassment by not listing the income criteria, but I have always wondered what that income level is so I looked it up. According to the Income Ineligibility Guidelines chart for free and reduced food and nutrition programs in the schools (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-23/pdf/2012-7036.pdf), a family of 4 would have to make $29,965 annually for the students to qualify for free lunches and a family of 4 making less than $42,643 would qualify for reduced price meals. Those numbers are really quite sad. I cannot imagine how someone with a household income of $29,965 could even pay rent, let alone utilities, insurance, and food for 4 people, especially at dismally inflating rates in this new economy.
The poverty rate according to that nifty chart is a scary $23,050 for a family of 4, so does Wylie really house that many families that are sitting eerily close to the poverty level? Can I equate that number solely to illegals living here? Not exactly. I will relate back to a blog post I made some time ago about the number of students on the food program in Wylie (http://befuddledbytheclowns.blogspot.com/2011/11/crime.html). I listed data on the number of and ethnicity of the students partaking of the free and reduced meal program and it was not evident in any way that the bulk of them might be here illegally. Still, we can agree that there exist a certain percentage of people here in Wylie that are illegal, and in my opinion, don’t deserve the freebies.
There is no way to define whether those signing up for the free and reduced meal programs deserve the assistance. According to the documents the school district hands out to parents who wish to sign their students up for free and reduced meals, there is no requirement that they be legal residents of the United States. The Federal Government refuses to discriminate against illegals by allowing them to sign up for the food program even if they cannot provide a social security number. Since Wylie is HOPE wanted to narrow down the list of those they serve, they had no choice but to follow those same guidelines by pre-registering families and requiring proof of eligibility in the free or reduced fee food programs, as well as requiring a utility bill or ID showing residency in Wylie. Wylie is HOPE could not discriminate either, nor should they really be caught up in that red tape. It is, however, an issue and one which our community needs to deal with unless our leaders intend to make Wylie a sanctuary city, or safe haven for illegals.
Though I could spend time writing about the ills of illegals sucking our system dry, I won’t at this time. The real point of this post is that Wylie is holding an awful lot of impoverished families in its bosom and that list appears to be growing each year. I cannot fathom the plight of the families of these 800 students that were assisted in the first 30 minutes the event was open. I cannot imagine what it is like to swallow one’s pride to sign children up for free meals or even free backpacks and supplies. At last reporting I received from the district, there were 3541 students in Wylie signed up for free or reduced price meals. I will be interested to see how many sign up this coming school year.
Any way you slice it, we have a growing poverty problem in Wylie. It doesn’t matter who we blame for the situation as there are many factors contributing to this. Despite the circumstances, I am glad we have some citizens taking an active role in helping to provide for their needs. Thank you Candy Arrington and Trustee Stacy Gooch for helping ease the burden of these families. With increasing need in the community, we will need more than hope, we will need a prayer too.