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UPDATED: LA Unified school board continues free breakfast program

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UPDATE: The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education this afternoon unanimously approved the continuation -- and expansion -- of its  Breakfast in the Classroom program.

The program moved the free and reduced price breakfast program from the cafeteria to the classroom more than a year ago in an effort to increase the number of low-income students who pick up and eat a school breakfast. According to the school district, fewer than a third of students were stopping by the cafeteria before school to eat breakfast even though the vast majority qualify for the subsidized meals.

Click here to see Adolfo Guzman-Lopez's live updates from Tuesday's school board meeting.

Until now, the decisions about the program were made by L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy.

Many were left scratching their heads last month when Deasy put up for a board vote whether to keep the program. It serves about 200,000 students and was slated to be rolled out district-wide next year.

According to the United Teachers Los Angeles, its members gave the program a failing grade. They said it was leading to bugs in the classroom and that, with the clean up time involved, breakfast was taking up as much as 30 minutes of instructional time at the beginning of the day.

But 88 percent of teachers who answered a union survey said they would support the program if it became a breakfast in the cafeteria program.

After those complaints, Deasy put the program up for a vote.

Board member Nury Martinez said the issue has turned into a power struggle between Deasy’s supporters and detractors on the seven member board of education. The union that represents the school's cafeteria workers and other groups have staged protests.

Publicly, the discussion has been measured.

“A better communication and action plan should be considered and brought before the Board," union-friendly board member Bennet Kayser said in a statement. "It should take into account any lost instructional time in this era of pressure on students, teachers and parents to achieve better on tests."

RELATED: Should breakfast be banned from the classroom?

The program’s $20 million price tag is paid for through federal grants and private fundraising. It's the first major initiative of the LA Fund for Public Education, an independent fundraising group begun by Superintendent John Deasy and Los Angeles philanthropist Megan Chernin.

Also on the board's agenda today is a proposal to stop suspending students for "willful defiance." Instead, students will be counseled for the first two infractions. Community activists have been pushing for the change for years, concerned that minority students are suspended in disproportionate numbers.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the breakfast program carried a $6 million price tag. KPCC regrets the error.

RELATED: Despite teacher complaints, LA Unified keeps Breakfast in the Classroom

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