DENVER - More than 300 Colorado schools will be required to provide breakfast to students after the first bell of the day starting next school year.
Lawmakers passed the proposal this year. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law Wednesday in the cafeteria of Rose Hill Elementary School in Commerce City,, surrounded by students.
The new law requires schools that have 80 percent or more students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to serve breakfast after the start of the school day.
Lawmakers say the goal is to make sure students are not hungry in class. Schools can choose how to provide the breakfast, whether it's during a brief recess or in class.
Hungry children don’t learn as well as their better-fed peers, but many students who qualify for existing before-school breakfast programs don’t get to school in time to eat, some of them because of the stigma of acknowledging that their families are too poor to feed them. Other times, they may feel ostracized or embarrassed by going to the school cafeteria to eat.
When the Adams 14 School District went from school breakfast before the bell to an after-the-bell meal, the participation rate went from 30 percent to 98 percent.
“Breakfast after the bell gives students from low-income families an equal chance to learn and succeed,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, one of the sponsors of HB13-1006. He qualified for free in-school meals on his way to becoming valedictorian of his high school class.
By serving breakfast during attendance-taking and announcements, schools that have already initiated Breakfast After the Bell have been able to do it with no reduction in instruction time, the sponsors of the bill said.
“This is a significant part of making sure our students get a good education,” said state Rep. Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs, the other sponsor of the bill.
The vast majority of the cost of Breakfast After the Bell is covered by an existing federal program.