Colorado Voters to Decide on Universal Free School Meals Expansion

Katie Spence
By Katie Spence
October 7, 2022US News

Colorado voters will decide on a proposition on Nov. 8 whether to cover the costs of free breakfasts and lunches for all public school children.

For two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, public school students across the country had access to free school meals when the federal government suspended its eligibility requirements. That changed in August.

Now, proponents of reinstating the universal free school meals program hope voters will show a desire to “spread the wealth.” Voters are being asked if they will limit tax deductions for higher-earning Coloradans to pay for the $100 million program.

Historically, Colorado voters have shown little desire to boost taxes. In 1992, they went so far as to establish the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, which limits the revenue that governments can retain and spend and requires voter approval for tax increases.

But in 2020, Colorado voters bucked past precedent and approved a paid family and medical leave proposal by popular vote.

NTD Photo
A Bernie Sanders sticker adorns a car in the parking lot of Manual High School in Denver. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

A Bernie Sanders sticker adorns a car in the parking lot of Manual High School in Denver. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Colorado’s Meal Plan

Currently, all students from Colorado families whose incomes are less than 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines are eligible for free meals. Students from families earning less than 185 percent are eligible for reduced-price meals. However, for students eligible for reduced-price meals, the state covers the student’s portion of the cost, making the meal free to the student.

Thus, under current Colorado statutes, for a family of four, students may receive a free breakfast and lunch if their family makes less than about $51,338. The funding for these meals comes from federal programs such as the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program, and state programs.

During the 2020 to 2022 school years, about 40 percent of all Colorado students were eligible for free school meals, according to Colorado’s 2022 state Ballot Information Booklet.

Proponents of expanding the free meals to all students say that’s not enough.

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Students eat lunch inside the school’s gym at Little Fort Elementary School in Waukegan, Ill., on June 23. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photo)

Proposition FF

The ballot proposal, Proposition FF, would limit state income tax deductions to $12,000 for single filers or $16,000 for joint filers and apply to standard or itemized deductions. However, the limit would only apply to households making more than $300,000 per year. Itemized deductions are most often charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes.

That means if a couple claimed $50,000 in itemized deductions, their state taxes would increase by $1,547 under the measure. As a result, Proposition FF would raise state income tax revenue by $100.7 million in 2023, the first year the tax measure would take effect.

Additionally, the money wouldn’t be subject to Colorado’s constitutional revenue limits and would be used to increase wages for the employees serving school meals.

Colorado’s ballot booklet states that “even if a student can afford to bring or pay for a meal, the measure will take a daily financial concern off of families’ plates.”

Opponents of the proposition argue that the measure saps money from the economy and from families investing their money as they see fit. They also say that “the state should not pay to feed kids who can afford to purchase a school meal or bring food from home.”

Proponents of Proposition FF argue that kids experiencing hunger have “lower grades than their peers and are more likely to struggle with behavioral problems and experience emotional, mental, and physical health issues.”

colorado voters
Voters wait to cast their ballots at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver on March 3, 2020. (Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images)

Move to Socialism

According to Workers World, there are “10 demands” that capitalists must accommodate in reparation to workers on the road to socialism. That includes, but isn’t limited to, full pay, benefits, and free food.

French economist Thomas Piketty advocates for “participatory socialism,” in which private property isn’t abolished but is instead “transformed” through “taxation and social welfare.”

In November 2020, Colorado voters approved a proposition, effective Jan. 1, 2023, requiring Colorado employers and employees to contribute 0.9 percent of the employee’s wage to a state-run insurance program. If an employee makes $104,000 per year, the employer and employee will pay $468 toward the insurance program for a combined total payment of $936 annually.

As a result, starting in 2024, if a Colorado employee has a medical event, they can take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and receive up to $1,100 per week in wages, depending on their salary. Anyone employed for 180 days and earning at least $2,500 qualifies so long as the organization employs at least 10 people.

From The Epoch Times

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