Port: School lunch issue isn't dead yet as House committee revives it

The House Education Committee has added an amendment to an education bill that revives a school lunch proposal defeated by the Senate earlier this week.

School lunch
File photo of school lunch tray.
Forum News Service file photo

MINOT, N.D. — Earlier this week, the state Senate defeated House Bill 1491 , which, in its amended form, would have appropriated $6 million to expand the state's free school lunch program from covering households up to 133% of the federal poverty level to 200%, which is currently just $60,000 for a family of four.

The original bill would have appropriated $89.5 million to provide universal free lunch.

Yesterday, the Senate defeated a reconsideration of that bill, and the issue seemed dead, as my colleague Jeremy Turley reported .

Only, hang on to your hats, because the issue is back.

Today the House Education Committee, after a lengthy and testy discussion during which Rep. Jeff Hoverson, a Republican from Minot, claimed the amendment was unconstitutional, added a $6 million appropriation to expand school lunches into Senate Bill 2284 .


That legislation was already a bit of a grab-bag of education policy. It would reform the membership of the state board of public school education members, revise the definition of a "weapon," make changes to the definition of a probationary teacher, etc.

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Now it also expands the free school lunch program.

"There is appropriated out of any moneys in the general fund in the state treasury, not otherwise appropriated, the sum of $6,000,000, or so much of the sum as may be necessary, to the department of public instruction for the purpose of providing grants to school districts to defray the expenses of providing meals, free of charge, for all students enrolled in public school at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline, for the biennium beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2025," the amendment added today states.

You can read the full text of the amended bill below. The school lunch amendment is in section 18.

The committee work on the amendment, which you can watch here , was a tense one, as I've already mentioned.

Rep. Scott Dyk, a Republican from Williston who was called out by a school district earlier this year for lying about a high school football team threatening a transgender student , moved to eliminate the school lunch amendment, with Rep. Matt Heilman, a Republican from the Bismarck area, seconding. The motion was defeated in a 5-8 vote with one committee member not voting.

The committee adjourned having voted 9-4-1 to advance the amended bill to the House Appropriations Committee.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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