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Don't Call Healthy School Lunch an "Encroachment"

Dana Woldowbyline‚ Feb. 11‚ 2013

As school budget season gets underway, it's time to say goodbye to "encroachments." San Francisco Unified School District's Student Nutrition Services (SNS) spends more money running school meal programs than it collects in meal payments from families and the government, necessitating an infusion of cash from the district's general fund. In Budgetspeak, this is called an "encroachment", which means the cost of providing a required service is more than the funds provided to pay for it, so other funds must be used to cover the cost.

However, "encroachment", derived from a medieval French word meaning literally "to catch with a hook", carries a negative connotation, implying the "encroaching" program is seizing money to which it is not entitled, thereby shortchanging other programs or services (or, in the worst case, other students.) As parent of a special education student, SF school board member Rachel Norton wrote passionately in 2009 about her distaste for the term "encroachment" as it referred to the special ed budget, even comparing that program's funding shortfall to that of student nutrition.