Los Angeles Classroom Breakfast Program Stays Despite Union Gripes

The classroom breakfast program in Los Angeles that was in danger of being axed following criticism from the teachers union has been given a reprieve – one imagines much to the relief of the 200,000 children that it feeds. United Teachers Los Angeles complained that serving breakfast in the classroom wasted instructional time and created a [...]

The classroom breakfast program in Los Angeles that was in danger of being axed following criticism from the teachers union has been given a reprieve – one imagines much to the relief of the 200,000 children that it feeds.

United Teachers Los Angeles complained that serving breakfast in the classroom wasted instructional time and created a mess, so LA Superintendent John Deasy declared that it would be eliminated without explicit board direction to retain it.

The threat of elimination didn’t solely affect the students who utilize the program; the Service Employees International Union Local 99 said that loss of the program would cost 900 school cafeteria worker jobs. The Union planned to rally at Hooper Avenue Elementary but that became unnecessary with the reprieve.

At least four of the seven LA Unified School Board members have explicitly come out in favor of the program, according to Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times: Monica Garcia, Bennett Kayser, Nury Martinez and Steve Zimmer. Tamar Galatzan is still undecided with Richard Vladovic and Marguerite LaMotte unavailable for comment.

“I am thrilled,” Deasy said Monday of the support for the program, which is set for a board vote May 14. “This is very good news for students who live in circumstances of poverty and need to eat.”

Nury Martinez said that the program was vital to the improvement of academic performance as hungry students had poorer attention spans and were at higher risk of absenteeism. She reiterated her support for any initiative that ensured students were able to begin the day in a suitable condition to learn and that their being well-nourished was a significant aspect of that.

The data appears to back her assertion:

So far, the classroom program has increased participation from 29% to 89% and this year brought in $6.1 million in federal school breakfast reimbursements, according to David Binkle, the district’s food services director. That figure is projected to increase to $20 million if the program is expanded to more than 680 schools as has been planned.

While the classroom breakfast program was the most publicized item set to be axed without explicit board approval there are several others on the list Deasy sent out in mid-April.

Deasy said he expected the board to back funding for other items, such as more school police. He said last week he would give “maximum responsibility” to the board to decide between those programs and the teachers union’s demands for more jobs and higher pay.

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