The Problem of Mistakenly Providing Free School Lunch to Nursery School Students in Katsushika Ward
Journalist Mitsutoshi Abe's "Cutting through Local Politics!
Journalist Mitsutoshi Abe’s “Cutting through Local Politics!
Katsunori Aoki, the fourth-term mayor of Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, has been a big opponent of free school lunches.
Until now, Katsushika Ward assembly members have repeatedly asked for free school lunches. Each time, Mayor Aoki responded, “The School Lunch Law requires that school lunches be free of charge for parents.
The School Lunch Law stipulates that school lunch fees are to be borne by the guardians. We have no intention of making school lunches free of charge. In the end, it will still be necessary to allocate 1 billion yen in permanent general funds. We will keep a close eye on the national government’s plan, including its financial measures, to see what they think.
The school has consistently opposed the free school lunch program, stating, “We will closely monitor the national government’s thinking, including its financial measures. However, on September 7, the city suddenly announced that it would pay the entire cost of school lunches at all 74 of its elementary and junior high schools starting next spring.
Ichikawa City in Chiba Prefecture has decided to make school lunches completely free of charge for junior high schools and special-needs schools starting next January, and for elementary schools starting next April, but this is the first time this has been done in the 23 wards of Tokyo.
A total of 29,000 students, including approximately 20,000 elementary school students and 9,000 junior high school students, are eligible for the program. The ward has provided 700 million yen in subsidies to date, and the complete free-of-charge system will increase the burden by another 1 billion yen. Moreover, this is a permanent project that will continue beyond the next fiscal year.
The total annual cost is expected to be approximately 1.7 billion yen. The project is scheduled to be included in next year’s general account budget, but has not yet been approved.
In addition to the free school lunch program, Katsushika Ward has been rocked by another issue. This is the issue of mispayments to day-care centers.
The issue is that the ward overpaid subsidies to private licensed daycare centers by more than 500 million yen compared to the amount that should have been paid. The ward, which had initially stated that it would “consider not asking for a refund,” reversed course and announced to the ward assembly on August 31 that it would ask for a refund.
Furthermore, at a meeting of the directors of private licensed daycare centers in the ward held on September 1 (a special, closed-door meeting), Ward Mayor Aoki explained his intention to reduce his own salary, and then stated
He said, “We were considering taking action to prevent the nursery from being burdened by the erroneous payment, but as a result, we have decided to ask for the return of the money. We sincerely apologize for this.
He apologized. The attendees were
The attendees were critical of the decision, saying, “A reduction in the salary of the ward mayor alone is lukewarm and insufficient.”
and “We will consider not asking for restitution.
“He had said he would consider not asking for restitution, so why has he changed his policy?”
and “Why did the policy change when they said they would consider not asking for restitution?
Yasuyuki Suzuki, chairman of the Katsushika Ward Private Nursery Association, who attended the meeting, told reporters
I think it is natural to return the money because it is taxpayers’ money, but there were two or three changes, so it is hard to agree on an emotional level. We would like to discuss with the ward how to minimize the impact on the park and how long it will take to return the money.
The company is now in the process of discussing the details with the district.
There is a reason for Chairman Suzuki’s two or three changes. According to one nursery school executive
According to a nursery school executive, “As of late July, the mayor had a meeting with the nursery school executives in advance to take the position that he would not ask for the return of the incorrect amount of subsidies. This is what is called “laying the groundwork,” or “groundwork talk.”
This is why Chairman Suzuki’s statement led to a sense of distrust.
The incident began in early August, when a ward official reported to a congressional committee that he would seek the return of the money. From this point, the twists and turns began to emerge.
The following week, however, the ward mayor publicly stated that he would not seek restitution for the amount spent on personnel expenses, and officially announced this at the presidents’ meeting. This also overturned the report from the previous week’s committee meeting. This drew a flurry of criticism from the council members, who said that this was a gross disregard for the council.
As the criticism grew louder, the ward mayor used 1.1 million yen of taxpayers’ money to investigate the legal basis for his justification, and when his lawyer pointed out the possibility of violating the law if he did not ask the nursery school to return the money on August 15, the ward mayor reluctantly decided to ask for the money again on August 31, causing a crack at the preschool directors’ meeting. This caused a rift in the board of preschool directors.
The ward administration officials, seizing on these circumstances, made this accusation.
The free school lunch program was a bizarre measure to dispel the distrust of the ward mayor. The ward mayor kept saying that the free school lunch program could not be implemented due to a lack of financial resources, but we can only assume that this was a bizarre measure to “make the subsidies go away.
If the free school lunch program is a bizarre measure by the mayor, it is an extremely irresponsible measure involving not only the residents of the ward, but also child-rearing households and the national government.
This is because, although each municipality may be willing to implement the free school lunch program, the issue of financial resources and Article 16 of the School Education Law, which stipulates that “no child or child receiving school lunches shall receive a school lunch.
The school lunch fee shall be borne by the guardians of the children or students who receive school lunch.
The school lunch system cannot be implemented easily, however. Yet, inquiries from the media and parents are pouring in.
The Katsushika Ward Assembly is holding its third regular session from September 13 to October 13. The school lunch program will be completely free at the September 20 meeting of the Education Committee, where the Board of Education will provide an explanation. It will be interesting to see what will be reported at this committee meeting.
Reporting and writing： Mitsutoshi Abe (Local political journalist, former TV reporter)
Born in 1956. He has worked on Time 3, Ohayo! Nice Day," "Tokudane! (Fuji Television Network) and eight other programs as a reporter. After managing an advertising agency, he served as a member of the Taito Ward Assembly in Tokyo from 1999 to 2007. After that, he became the first public secretary of a member of the House of Representatives. Currently, he continues to report and write about various administrative and social issues from his unique perspective.