Election results: Tuesday returns favor FF proposal, free school meals

The Tuesday night returns looked promising for a measure that would help Colorado school districts provide free school lunches to all students.

The FF proposal would help pay for school lunches by limiting state tax deductions for those earning more than $300,000 a year, meaning those taxpayers would pay more taxes. These revenues would be available to school districts that choose to provide free school lunches to all students.

Lawyers on Tuesday night said they were hopeful and not surprised.

“We believe Colorado voters know they understand that our children need food when they’re trying to learn,” said Ashley Wheeland, policy director of Hunger Free Colorado, a member of the Healthy School Meals Coalition. for All.

Currently, districts get federal reimbursement for school lunches provided to students from low-income families. The federal threshold for qualifying for free or reduced-price meals varies by family size. This year, a family of four would have to earn less than $51,338 a year to qualify for subsidized meals.

Educators and advocates believe that because the cost of living in Colorado is higher than in many other states, many families earning more than that amount still struggle to afford healthy meals.

The FF proposal would require districts to apply for what is called the Community Eligibility Provision Program to get the federal government to cover the cost of more meals. Rather than asking individual families to complete free or reduced-price lunch applications, the district would use Medicaid and other data to demonstrate student need. The state money generated by the FF proposal would cover any costs not covered by federal dollars.

Advocates believe most school districts would participate.

According to a state tax analysis, the tax measure is expected to raise $100.7 million in the 2023-24 budget year, and increasing amounts each year thereafter.

The measure would be adopted by a majority of votes.

We’ll update this story as the election results come in.

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at [email protected]

Christy J. Olson