(July 1) – A bill to help make sure more Colorado school kids get a decent breakfast went into effect today, in time for the start of the new school year next month.
Breakfast After the Bell, a k a HB13-1006 by Reps. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) and Tony Exum Sr. (D-Colorado Springs), passed 49-16. It will phase in a requirement that schools where at least 70 percent of the students qualify for federal free or reduced-cost lunch will serve breakfast to all students after the official start of school.
Hungry children don’t learn as well as their better-fed peers, but many students who qualify for before-school breakfasts don’t get to school in time to eat, some of them because they are ashamed to acknowledge that their families are too poor to feed them.
Rep. Moreno said breakfast after the bell gives students from low-income families an equal chance to learn and succeed. During floor debate on Wednesday, he noted that in 2010, when the Adams 14 School District went from school breakfast before the bell to an after-the-bell meal, the participation rate went from 30 percent to 98 percent.
“What they’ve seen is behavior problems reduced,” he told the House. “They’ve seen nursing visits go down.”
The sponsors said that breakfast could be served during attendance-taking and announcements, and that schools that have already initiated Breakfast After the Bell had been able to do it with no reduction in instruction time.
The vast majority of the cost of Breakfast After the Bell is covered by an existing federal program. The bill has the strong support of education and business groups.
And yet the bill was opposed by Reps. Perry Buck (R-Windsor), Don Coram (R-Montrose), Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland), Justin Everett (R-Littleton), Chris Holbert (R-Parker), Stephen Humphrey (R-Severance), Janak Joshi (R-Colorado Springs), Polly Lawrence (R-Littleton), Dan Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs), Kevin Priola (R-Henderson), Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), Lori Saine (R-Dacono), Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), Spencer Swalm (R-Centennial) and Jared Wright (R-Fruita).
Rep. Moreno recalled that Republicans axed a school breakfast appropriation in 2011, only to relent after intense criticism.
“I don’t know why some Republicans think it’s not a good idea to try to help low-income students get the most important meal of the day,” said Rep. Moreno, who was eligible for free breakfast when he was a schoolkid. He wound up valedictorian of his high school class.