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Expert warns of upcoming threats to democracy across the nation; Judge in Trump documents case rejects suggestions to step aside; NC businesses fear effects of 'bathroom bill'; Report says restaurants allow abuse, disease risk at MD animal farms.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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Rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town, prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands and a Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival.

WA Bill Provides Free School Meals, But Worker Shortage is Hurdle

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Thursday, February 2, 2023   

A measure in the Washington State Legislature would provide free school meals to K-12 students, but nutrition service workers are worried they are not being considered.

The American Federation of Teachers of Washington represents kitchen workers and is supportive of the bill, but the union said lawmakers also need to ensure there is enough staff to provide the meals.

Kristine Bengochea, kitchen manager for the Northshore School District in King and Snohomish counties, said staffing is a key component of the effort.

"With this new bill coming up, we are so concerned with how many actual workers there will be available to feed all the children," Bengochea noted.

Bengochea pointed out her kitchen has about nine workers and serves 300-400 students daily. The measure is meant to extend a federal policy from the pandemic, which allowed all students to receive meals. The office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which requested the legislation, did not respond to a request for comment.

Based on the pandemic, AFT Washington expects the number of students it feeds to double from before COVID-19. Bengochea recalled the pandemic was a hard experience for many workers.

"We burned out so quickly with the workers that we had, and this year the workers have either retired early or just didn't come back," Bengochea explained. "We're afraid that's going to happen again with this bill coming out."

The Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education passed the measure this week. The House version is scheduled for an executive session in the Committee on Education today.

Disclosure: The American Federation of Teachers of Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Education, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

References:  
Senate Bill 5339 2023

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