Weekly roundup: All California students now qualify for free school meals, educators gather for MTSS conference, and more

Starting this year, every public school student in Orange County will have the option to get meals at school for free, regardless of their family’s income.

In fact, free meals will be available to all 6.2 million students in California, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, thanks in large part to the state’s unexpected budget windfall, the Associated Press reports.

TypewriterFor years, California students qualified for free meals based on their families’ income levels. Under the National School Lunch Program, a family of four has to make less than $34,000 a year for their children to be eligible for free meals. An income above that amount but below $48,000 qualifies for reduced-price meals.

While some large cities like New York, Boston and Chicago have offered free school meals for all students, it was thought to be prohibitively expensive for a state.

But with an influx of new revenue, California became the first state to adopt a universal meal program in June. Maine has since followed suit.

“This is so historic. It’s beyond life-changing,” Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, told the Associated Press.

According to EdSource, the state program actually begins in 2022-23 because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already committed to paying for all school meals in 2021-22.

And here are some of the other stories we’ve been tracking this week:

  • More than 2,500 educators from across California gathered virtually for a three-day Professional Learning Institute aimed at sharing practices that support the academic, behavioral and social-emotional success of all students. OCDE Associated Superintendent Dr. Christine Olmstead, who heads the California MTSS leadership team, shared some of the highlights.
  • A panel of eight academic experts shared their insight on ethnic studies and California’s recently adopted model curriculum Wednesday during an online forum hosted by Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. The OCDE Newsroom posted a recap of what the speakers had to say on key topics, and the Orange County Register also covered the colloquium with a focus on four local superintendents who participated.
  • During a joint meeting of the Laguna Beach Unified school board and the Laguna Beach City Council, officials discussed a district school bus yard and the possibility of using it for new housing.
  • Four Orange County scholars have been selected to participate in a prestigious Bank of America summer internship program that promotes leadership development and community engagement opportunities.
  • Citing the need for more research, Newport-Mesa Unified school board members recently decided to table a discussion over whether to continue a series of anti-bias trainings offered by the Anti-Defamation League.
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