State rep proposes bill to eliminate school districts’ student lunch debts

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – School districts across the state owe hundreds of thousands of dollars for student meals that don’t always get paid for. A new bill was filed this legislative session to ease that debt.

Backers of the bill want to make sure all students have access to breakfast or lunch without having to pay for it, essentially getting rid of the state’s reduced lunch program.

“It works for our kids in our state that maybe would otherwise not have all their meals. This will let them have all their meals in a day,” Rep. Willie Madrid, (D) Chaparral, said.

House Bill 10 would appropriate $650,000 to the Public Education Department to get rid of reduced price co-payments, meaning students would no longer have to pay the difference when buying their meals at school. If passed, Rep. Madrid says New Mexico could get more federal funding when it comes to student meals.

Republicans say although free lunches for students is a grand idea, the state already tries to take the load off a lot of poorer students.

“It’s built-in that if 80% of your children qualify for free or reduced meals, it’s free district-wide and we set aside funds that give the districts opportunity to target those families who may be struggling that are required to pay a portion of their children’s meal,” Rep. Rebecca Dow, (R) Truth or Consequences, said.

Last year, Albuquerque Public Schools was in the red $168,000 in unpaid lunch bills. House Bill 10 is scheduled to be discussed in the House Education Committee soon.

If passed, the PED would get that $650,000 every year to pay the districts for those lunches.

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