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L.A. Unified continues Breakfast in the Classroom program

The Los Angeles Board of Education approved funding for discretionary programs such as classroom breakfasts at its meeting Tuesday.

Many of the discretionary program items were placed on the board’s consent calendar — with the exception of Breakfast in the Classroom — and were outlined in a memo that Supt. John Deasy sent to members last month, saying that they would not be funded without explicit board approval.

The controversial breakfast program, which feeds more than 2,000 students in 290 schools across the L.A. Unified School District, passed unanimously with high-profile support from union workers, parents and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel.

Two of the district’s most influential labor unions were once at odds about the early morning meals, but both agreed that the program was beneficial to students as long as accommodations were made to ease teachers’ concerns.

In a recent survey, members of the Los Angeles teachers union said they would support the program's elimination if issues such as messes and interrupted instructional time were not addressed.

But board member Steve Zimmer said it’s the district’s obligation to work out the problems. “Every program I’ve seen LAUSD implement has problems,” Zimmer said.

“We know we cannot turn away and pretend for a moment longer that [hunger] is someone else’s problem. This is not instead of education. This is education.”

The district also cited increased participation and funding as reasons to keep the program.

“When breakfast was served in the school cafeteria, we had a 29% participation rate. That has increased by 89% since Breakfast in the Classroom and, best of all, students are eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast,” said David Binkle, L.A. Unified's food services director.

The program’s expansion will bring about $20 million in federal funding to support the purchase of food, employment of staff and custodial services by the third year of its implementation.

The board also passed a $4.2 million budget increase for the L.A. Unified police force to meet operating needs at new school sites and agreed to maintain funding for KLCS-TV public television.

The board is scheduled to vote on a proposal to ban the use of suspensions for so-called willful defiance Tuesday afternoon.

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Twitter: @dalinac

dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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