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SB-138 School meal programs: free and reduced-price meals.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 05/26/2017 10:00 AM
SB138:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  May 26, 2017
Amended  IN  Senate  March 08, 2017

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 138


Introduced by Senator McGuire
(Principal coauthor: Senator Mitchell)
(Coauthors: Senators Beall, Hertzberg, and Portantino)

January 13, 2017


An act to amend Section 49562 of, and to add Section 49564 to, of the Education Code, relating to school meals.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 138, as amended, McGuire. School meal programs: free and reduced-price meals: universal free meal service. meals.
Existing law requires a school district or county superintendent of schools maintaining a kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, to provide a needy pupil, as defined, one nutritionally adequate free or reduced-price meal during each schoolday, and authorizes the school district or county superintendent of schools to use funds available from any federal or state program to comply with that requirement, as provided. Existing law requires the governing board of a school district and the county superintendent of schools to make paper applications and electronic applications for free or reduced-price meals available to pupils, as provided, and requires the applications to meet certain specifications and include certain information.

This bill would, on or before September 1, 2018, require a school district or county superintendent of schools that has a very high poverty school, as defined, in its jurisdiction to apply to operate a federal universal meal service provision pursuant to specified federal law, and to begin providing breakfast and lunch free of charge through the universal meal service to all pupils at the very high poverty school upon state approval to operate that service. The bill would authorize a school district or county superintendent of schools to stop providing the universal free meal service at a school if the school ceases to be a very high poverty school. Because the bill would impose additional duties on school districts and county superintendents of schools, it would impose a state-mandated local program.

Existing law requires the State Department of Education, in consultation with the State Department of Health Care Services, to develop and implement a process to use participation data from the Medi-Cal program to verify income to directly certify children whose families meet the applicable income criteria into the school meal program.
This bill would require the State Department of Education to share that participation data with school districts. The bill would require a local educational agency participating in a federal school meal program to use that participation data, commencing with the participation data of pupils in the 2017–18 school year, to directly certify pupils eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, to the extent permitted under federal law. Because the bill would impose additional duties on these local educational agencies, it would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) School meals are essential resources that prevent child hunger and support health and achievement and are shown through research to reduce poverty, food insecurity, and chronic absenteeism.
(2) School meals are a critical source of support for low-income children at risk of experiencing adversity, yet nearly one million eligible children in California miss out on the health benefits of school lunch and two million children miss out on breakfast on an average schoolday.
(3) To receive a free or reduced-price school meal, children must first be certified as income eligible and enrolled in the school meal program.
(4) Federal law requires a child receiving benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (7 U.S.C. Sec. 2011 et seq.), known as CalFresh in California, or the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (42 U.S.C. Sec. 601 et seq.), known as CalWORKs in California, to be directly certified as eligible for free school meals without an additional school meal application.
(5) California is authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture to use participation data from Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California, to establish the eligibility of low-income pupils for free and reduced-price school meals, without the need for an individual school meal application.
(6) In California, almost all low-income children covered by public health insurance receive Medicaid. This makes direct certification for school meals with Medicaid the most effective tool for identifying low-income pupils and increasing paperless certification for free and reduced-price school meals.
(7) High poverty schools and school districts are permitted to adopt federal school meal provisions that allow the service of breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled pupils without the burden of collecting applications, which include the Community Eligibility Provision and Provision 2 of the federal Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1751 et seq.).
(8) Serving breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled pupils eliminates stigma and unpaid meal balances. Universally free school meal programs are associated with decreased error rates, reduced financial strain for families, improved participation, and healthier and better prepared pupils.
(b) It is therefore the intent of the Legislature to improve school districts’ accuracy in identifying low-income pupils and to increase pupil access to school meals at the highest poverty schools.

SEC. 2.

 Section 49562 of the Education Code is amended to read:

49562.
 (a) The department, in consultation with the State Department of Health Care Services, shall develop and implement a process to use, and shall share with school districts, the participation data from the Medi-Cal program administered pursuant to Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 14000) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, to verify income as established in the federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) and, to the extent permitted under federal law, directly certify children whose families meet the applicable income criteria into the school meal program.
(b) A local educational agency that participates in a federal school meal program shall use the participation data described in subdivision (a), commencing with the participation data of pupils in the 2017–18 school year, to directly certify pupils eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, to the extent permitted under federal law.
(c) In the operation of this process, the department shall limit the information needed from the State Department of Health Care Services to identify families whose income falls below the eligibility cutoff for free or reduced-price meals, and the least amount of information needed to facilitate a match of local school records. The State Department of Health Care Services shall conduct the data match of local school records and return a list to the department, including only the data fields submitted by the department and an indicator of program eligibility, as required by federal law.
(d) The department and the State Department of Health Care Services shall design this process to maintain pupil privacy and the privacy of Medi-Cal recipients by establishing privacy and confidentiality procedures consistent with all applicable state and federal laws. To the extent permitted by state and federal law, the department and the State Department of Health Care Services may review the data only for the purposes of improving the effectiveness of the data matches made pursuant to this section and Section 49561.
(e) The participation data described in subdivision (a) shall not be public records, and shall not be open to the public for inspection. The participation data described in subdivision (a) shall not be disclosed to any other party without the written consent of the parent or legal guardian of the pupil, except for the purpose of directly certifying pupils for free and reduced-price meals pursuant to this section or as otherwise required or authorized by law or state or federal court order. This subdivision does not prohibit the disclosure of aggregate data that does not reveal personally identifying information about a pupil or his or her family.

(e)

(f) The department specifically shall ensure that the process conforms to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-191) by using strategies employed by other states in Medicaid verification projects or by developing a new strategy that ensures conformity.

(f)

(g) The department shall seek all necessary approvals to establish this process and shall apply for available federal funds to support the work of this process.

(g)

(h) This section shall become operative upon the receipt of federal funds to assist the state in implementing the provisions of this section.

SEC. 3.Section 49564 is added to the Education Code, to read:
49564.

(a)In order to provide pupils in very high poverty schools with optimal nutrition for learning and to ensure that schools receive the maximum federal meal reimbursement, a school district or a county superintendent of schools shall provide breakfast and lunch free of charge to all pupils at a very high poverty school pursuant to this section.

(b)For purposes of this section, “very high poverty school” is a school that enrolls pupils in kindergarten or in any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, and is eligible to receive the free federal reimbursement rate for all reimbursable school breakfasts and lunches served, pursuant to the Community Eligibility Provision in Section 1759a of Title 42 of the United States Code.

(c)On or before September 1, 2018, a school district or county superintendent of schools that has a very high-poverty school in its jurisdiction shall apply to operate a federal universal meal service provision, which may include, but is not limited to, the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2, pursuant to Section 1759a of Title 42 of the United States Code.

(d)A school district or county superintendent of schools shall begin providing a universal meal service pursuant to Section 1759a of Title 42 of the United States Code to all pupils at a very high poverty school upon state approval to operate a universal meal service. A school district or county superintendent of schools may stop providing the universal free meal service at a school if the school ceases to be a very high poverty school.

SEC. 4.SEC. 3.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.