On Saturday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law, Senate Bill 265, guaranteeing all students a state-funded lunch of their choice, even if their parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees. The new legislation along with additional signed bills expands protections to students in the state’s K-12 public schools.
“Creating a California for All means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids. These bills help move us closer to that goal,” said Governor Newsom.
Unpaid Fees = Cheaper Alternative Lunch
Earlier this year, Governor Newsom met with Ryan Kyote and agreed to address the issue affecting many students within the state.
Ryan Kyote, a Napa County elementary school student, launched national attention when he exposed how kids at his school were singled out because of low funds in their lunch accounts. Kyote used his own allowance to pay his classmates’ lunch debt.
Furthermore, Kyote’s efforts highlighted how the issue is widespread across the country. Students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper “alternative” option.
SB 265 Bill
The SB 265 bill by Senator Robert Hertzberg (Van Nuys) outlaws this practice. The bill ensures all students receive a state-funded meal of their choice, regardless of if their account has an unpaid balance.
Specifically, SB 265 amends the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017.
The bill requires all local educational agencies, including school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools that provide free and reduced meals, to eliminate policies that give alternative meals to students with unpaid lunch fees.
Additional Bills Signed Into Law
Assembly Bill 493 by Assemblymember Todd Gloria (San Diego) seeks the development of resources for in-service training for public school teachers and certified employees that will focus on supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students in grades 7 through 12. The training is to ensure teachers are better prepared to effectively support LGBTQ students who experience harassment, since the students’ experiences could affect their school performance and attendance.
Additionally, Governor Newsom signed AB 982 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (Pasadena), requiring teachers in public and charter schools to provide homework assignments, by request, to the parent or guardian of a student in suspension for two or more days. Most importantly, the bill seeks to ensure that students do not fall behind on schoolwork. Statistics helped to reveal that suspensions disproportionately affect students of color. While African American students account for only 5.8 percent of the state’s public school enrollment, they represent 17.8 percent of students suspended in 2018.