Schools may soon be tossing more uneaten vegetables into the trash because of new federal mandates, Superintendent John Bevan said this week.

The Southeastern School Corporation superintendent joined three other educators Tuesday night at Ivy Tech in Logansport to discuss the federal government’s role in education. The event was the last of four hosted by the League of Women Voters of Cass County.

Bevan said the federal government was too involved in public education. Thelma Schwenk, director of Logansport Area Joint Special Services Education, agreed.

“Laws have come around to hold our toes to the fire,” Schwenk said. “Their intent is good, but legislators aren’t out there in the trenches.”

Bevan said that was obvious in the new school lunch guidelines mandated by the government. He called them “overreaching.”

“If you follow federal guidelines, it’s almost impossible to provide 20 nutritious meals a week that kids will eat,” Bevan said. “It’s like if it tastes good, spit it out.”

He said the guidelines require that schools provide more vegetables at every meal. The result will be more vegetables ending up in school trash cans, especially at the elementary schools, he said.

“They won’t eat it,” he said.

Paul Paese, dean of education at Indiana University Kokomo, wanted more federal dollars to go toward parent education and child nutrition programs.

“Any funding that’s going to help with problems like childhood obesity is a necessity,” Paese said. “Where are we going to be if this trend continues?”

He said legislators already made it worse by narrowing the curriculum and placing too much emphasis on math and science. Students get too little physical activity now, Paese said.

Bevan said assessment tests like the state-mandated ISTEP reflect that narrow curriculum and ignore the skill sets of some students.

Not every kid will grow up to be a rocket scientist, he said.

“We focus too much on that narrow academic standard,” Bevan said. “When my car or boat doesn’t run, I’m not looking for a Harvard graduate.”

Panelists agreed that any national assessment tests should be designed by teachers.

“Our legislators are not the ones to do it,” Schwenk said.

Members of local League of Women Voters will use the information presented at all four public meetings to form a consensus on the role of federal government in education. That information will then be sent to the national organization.

• Lindsey Ziliak is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or lindsey.ziliak@pharostribune.com.

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