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they are correlated, making the impact of changes difficult to assess. The advantage of the BRR is that it depends on all three percentages in a way that is of most direct interest to districts. Specifically, it gives the impact of changes in the percentages on the bottom line— reimbursement. In fact, it is the average reimbursement per meal. The BRR is especially useful as a summary measure for ascertaining the differences in reimbursement that result from using different percentage distributions (eligible students, certified students, or meals served) as claiming percentages. Nonetheless, workshop participants told the panel that to consider participating in the ACS Eligibility Option (AEO), they would need to see all estimates (percentages of students eligible for free, reduced-price, and full-price meals) in addition to the BRR and claiming percentages to help them assess whether to adopt the AEO.1
The panel’s analytical results are focused throughout on school districts in which more than 75 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals in any school year from 2004-2005 through 2009-2010 because these districts are most likely to be interested in the AEO dis-trictwide. We call these districts “very high FRPL [free or reduced-price lunch].”2Table 3-1 shows the distribution of these and other districts by size for all districts that have school meals program certification data for school year 2009-2010 from the Common Core of Data (CCD) and for which the Census Bureau derived ACS estimates. There are 1,291 such districts in the nation (about 10 percent of all districts), which enrolled nearly 13 percent of all students and 22 percent of students certified for free or reduced-price meals. We also considered districts with more than 50 percent but never more than 75 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals in the school years from 2004-2005 through 2009-2010 because these districts might be interested in the AEO for a subset of schools. We call these districts “high FRPL.” There are 4,119 such districts nationwide (32 percent of districts), enrolling 34 percent of all students and 44 percent of students certified for free or reduced-price meals.
1 Many of our analyses examine the individual free, reduced-price, and full-price percent ages. As noted, however, the BRR is a useful way to summarize these percentages and focus attention on whether different sets of percentages substantially affect reimbursement, given that the difference of $.40 (currently) between the free and reduced-price meal reimburse ment rates is very small relative to the difference of more than $2 between those rates and the rate for full-price meals. Based on the lunch reimbursement rates (with the $.02 increment) for 2010-2011 (see Table 2-6 in Chapter 2), the BRR with free, reduced-price, and full-price eligibility percentages of 80, 5, and 15 percent, respectively, is less than 2 percent higher than the BRR with percentages of 70, 15, and 15 percent, respectively ($2.3510 versus $2.3110). In contrast, the latter is nearly 10 percent greater than the BRR with percentages of 70, 5, and 25 percent ($2.1050). In other words, shifting 10 percent (of students or meals) from the reduced-price category to the full-price category has a much greater effect on reimbursement than shifting them to the free category. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 explicitly acknowledges the BRR as a useful measure for analysis and decision making, requiring states to calculate and disseminate BRRs for districts for purposes of implementing and administering the Community Eligibility Option.
2 The 75 percent figure was identified as a threshold for potential interest in a universal feed ing provision in many phases of the panel’s analysis. It is noted in publications by the Food Research and Action Center (see http://frac.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/provision2.pdf). As discussed later, the 75 percent threshold also was mentioned by partici pants in the panel’s workshop and in its survey of Provision 2/3 districts.