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Continued: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton pledges hot lunches for needy Minnesota school children

Several bills at the Legislature last session called for such an expansion, but most weren’t backed by necessary funding. Passage would have meant an unfunded mandate, to be paid for by schools.

Late in the session, House Republicans worked to include funding for school lunches in the massive education budget bill. They would have covered the cost by defunding several DFL ­initiatives, including the new school antibullying “climate centers.” That measure failed.

“It disappoints me that House Democrats chose special interests and partisan politics over children,” amendment sponsor Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, said in a statement Tuesday. “I offered an amendment last year on the House floor that would have provided funding to ensure low-income children are not turned away from the lunch table for lack of payment. My amendment would have utilized funding from more bureaucracy — including a new climate center — to help ensure our students don’t go without a school lunch. Unfortunately, Democrats stood on the side of spending more taxpayer dollars in a government agency instead of taking the opportunity to ­support our children.”

Finding the money for school lunches should be much easier this year. The state is likely to have a $1 ­billion surplus for the rest of the budget cycle. Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said he will sponsor the bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said funding school lunches will be “a very big priority. We’re going to include it in our budget.” Of students being denied lunch by their school, he said, “It just seems wrong.”

 

Staff writers Baird Helgeson and Steve Brandt contributed to this report. jennifer.brooks@startribune.com • 651-925-5049

shannon.prather@startribune.com • 612-673-4804

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