So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Despite teacher complaints, LA Unified keeps Breakfast in the Classroom

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

Union leaders, parents and teachers packed the L.A. Unified Board of Education meeting Tuesday, when the board took on whether to continue the Breakfast in the Classroom program.

The “power struggle” fireworks promised for Tuesday’s L.A. Unified Board of Education over the Breakfast in the Classroom program never materialized.

Instead, speakers and the board had nothing but praise for the one-year old program.

“I’m here as a mother. I have five boys, single mom,” said Estela Tejada, who got choked up as she talked about how the program had helped her family. “I work the night shift every day and it’s hard for me to get up in the morning to even think about getting breakfast for my kids.”

Ultimately, the board unanimously approved a motion to continue the program – and expand it.

The decision was a big win for Superintendent John Deasy in his ongoing battle with the teacher’s union. He brought the issue to a vote after a union survey last month gave the program a failing grade. Teachers said the food attracts bugs and rodents and it’s taking too long to serve the kids and clean up after inevitable messes – up to 30 minutes of precious instructional time.

Board members Steve Zimmer and Marguerite LaMotte said those wrinkles will be ironed out.

“Our obligation is to work out the problems, that’s what we do,” Zimmer said.

Teachers union president Warren Fletcher said teachers aren’t opposed to feeding kids – but complained they weren’t consulted on how the program should be implemented. Teachers would prefer students to eat breakfast in the cafeteria, like they used to before this program started more than a year ago.

“The last thing we want to do is create a situation where classrooms that already have some pretty major challenges as far as custodial support etc, where we make that problem worse,” he said.

The move to the classroom was meant 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. The program now serves 200,000 kids.

In the end, UTLA’s complaints were drowned out. Pro-Deasy groups and the union that represents cafeteria workers, SEIU 99, jumped into action to support the program.

Even board members who are staunch union supporters cast a yes vote on Tuesday.

L.A. Unified will now move forward with a two-year plan to expand Breakfast in the Classroom to more than 600 schools.

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