Are school lunches jeopardized by federal school funding bill?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – How school kids are fed and how the meals are paid for is a divisive issue on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill, and its led to a veto call.

Federal money covers some things in local schools, but some feel that comes with cost.

“Some of our school boards are getting less than one percent of their budget from the federal government, yet they have to comply with these onerous rules about how much fish sticks they can put on a plate each day,” says Memphis Republican Senator Brian Kelsey. “That’s absurd and we need to give them more freedom.”

Senator Kelsey sponsors a bill headed to Governor Bill Haslam that permits local school boards to refuse federal funding with no penalty from the State of Tennessee.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart wants the governor to veto the bill fearing what it might do to the federally funded school lunch and breakfast programs.

“Some intended to use this bill as I feared,” said Stewart Monday, “to extract themselves from obligations to provide free and reduced lunches and breakfasts to school children.”

Rep. Stewart says the bill “unsolves” a problem long ago solved.

“This has been a great success story in our country and now what we are trying to do is dial the clock backward,” he said in a Monday morning news conference.

Rep. Stewart and Sen. Kelsey disagree about whether current law or state education department policy would allow funding to terminate the school lunch and breakfast programs, but Kelsey is clear about his intent.

“There is current state board policy that requires these local school boards to participate in the federal school lunch program,” the senator told News 2. “My hope is that going forward the state will change that policy, and we can give the ability to local to make their own decisions.

The governor received the bill on his desk on Sunday.

He has 10 days to sign, veto, or let it become law without his signature.

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