Originally published Monday, December 12, 2011 at 3:46 PM

The Seattle School Board has the budget munchies

Relaxing Seattle school district policy on what can be sold in vending machines is a bad idea. The whole effort is not about sustenance but separating students from their money.

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THE Seattle School Board might munch through precious time parsing the nutritional taxonomy of salty snacks and sugary drinks in school vending machines.

Forget about it. Coaxing money out of school kids is not a priority.

Three words of advice for board members: focus, focus, focus. The job is all about academic achievement and oversight of school district management and budgets.

The board in 2004 imposed a stricter policy ahead of other state and federal guidelines, Seattle Times reporter Brian M. Rosenthal reminded us Monday. Now a steady decline in vending-machine proceeds for student activities has the board looking at relaxing Seattle's policy to match other guidelines, Rosenthal reported.

For starters, the district is about education, not providing relief for snack attacks. If Seattle schools had no vending machines, students could survive for six hours.

Instead this is a cynical effort to restore them as revenue centers. Market the stuff they will eat so more money can be made to pay for good stuff.

If the extracurricular activities have value — and they most certainly do — find ways to fund them in the existing budget and get more creative with outside support. Quit thinking about taxing students with junk food that meets guilt-assuaging salt and fat thresholds.

Vending revenues dropped. There is no compelling argument in saying students buy their snacks elsewhere. Fine, but the district has a standard.

Jacking up the nutritional naughtiness of vending machines to make money while lamenting the dietary content of school lunches is silly. Never mind what is consumed in vast quantities at home.

Eight years ago, the School Board lost track of $35 million, and the superintendent was a casualty. Fast-forward to another financial scandal where the board had to make up millions of dubiously spent dollars. Another superintendent went bye-bye.

Indeed, the money made under the old vending-machine rules would barely cover a decent severance check.

If students have money to burn, put out donation boxes for student activities. Cover the lost vending revenue, as the board said it would and did not.

Quit looking at the students as cash cows with the munchies.


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