Story at a glance
- A budget surplus in California lets the state fund all of its students’ school meals.
- Officials say that the pandemic could increase the number of economically-vulnerable students.
- Other funding went to staff retention and anti-bias curriculum.
Thanks to a surplus in the state budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, California will be able to provide free meal options to all students, regardless of their household income.
“I am excited about the interconnected nature of these historic investments that move forward universal access to school meals for all students, universal preschool, and afterschool expanded learning programs, such as the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program—all critical areas in ensuring equitable opportunities for California’s students,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Friday.
The 2021 to 2022 budget shows a 30 percent increase in California public school funding, up to $80.4 billion from $69.3 billion in 2020.
Thurmond said the COVID-19 pandemic demands more funding for students in need who have been impacted by the pandemic.
Other allocations for the increase in funding went to mental health support, educator recruitment and retention, broadband infrastructure, LGBTQ+ student support, and new anti-bias curriculum.
“Focusing on student mental health and wellness and critical supports like universal school meals and community schools that provide wraparound programs for families will be essential for facilitating a safe return to in-person learning for the students who have suffered so much during the pandemic,” Thurmond added.
FOX LA estimates that prior to the pandemic, over 3.6 million students in California qualified for free lunches based on their family income, amounting to nearly 60 percent of the students in the entire state.