Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation to address the issue of school lunch debt.
The General Assembly’s Committee on Children will hold a public hearing on Tuesday on a bill that would prohibit disciplinary action against public school children who have unpaid school lunch bills. The proposal would also allow any public or private entities to pay off such debt.
Currently, any regional or local board of education can establish a meal program. When such services are offered, a board shall provide free meals to children whose economic needs require such action.
Various school districts in the state have seen school lunch debts on the rise. For example, education officials in Norwalk said last year that they had noticed their schools were on track to accrue more debts than in previous years. It often happens when families who don’t qualify for free lunch can’t afford to pay for their child’s lunch.
According to this bill, no local or regional board of education shall publicly identify or stigmatize a child for any unpaid charges for school meals. They also couldn’t, delaying or refusing to serve a student these meals or discriminating against these students.
Connecticut isn’t the only state addressing this problem, the issue has sparked controversies across the country. A Pennsylvania school district apologized last year for warning parents who were behind on their lunch bills that their children could end up in foster care and for rejecting a businessman’s offer to pay the overdue charges. Ultimately, the district agreed to accept the donation.