A pilot program in Massachusetts that offers universal school meals would be extended through the end of the 2023-2024 school year as part of an additional budget proposal submitted by Gov. Maura Healey on Friday.
The proposed $734 million spending plan includes $171 million for the federally funded school feeding program.
The proposal also directs the state board of education to report by early next year on options for extending this program into the future, including exploring ways to use federal funds to fund the meals. According to Healey, the administration had previously asked for funding to continue the program during the current school year.
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“The universal school lunch program has proven successful in expanding access to nutritious meals for all students and it is important that we keep it going,” Healey said in a press release.
The move comes as states grapple with the end of a pandemic-era federal aid program that provided free school meals to all public school students — regardless of family income.
California and Maine made universal meals permanent in 2021. Last year, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to provide free meals for all public school students.
Other states are considering expanded or universal feeding programs.
Vermont — which last year opted to continue free meals for all public school students for another year using surplus state education funds — is considering a bill that would make universal free school meals permanent.
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Healey’s supplemental budget plan also includes $20 million to help the ailing Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority recruit and retain employees — money that would help boost hiring bonuses, raise starting salaries for bus operators, and a marketing campaign to support recruitment efforts.
Labor shortages at the transport authority have contributed to a number of problems, including a slowdown in tube travel during peak hours.
The proposed budget would also triple the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s operating budget to help fund the state’s ongoing clean technology and decarbonization efforts. It also includes $2 million for the state celebration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution.
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The budget now goes to the legislature of the federal states.
Source : www.foxnews.com