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National PTA Opposes Bill's Limit on Notices About School-Lunch Program

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Much of the opposition to a federal child nutrition bill has centered on proposed cuts to the number of schools eligible to offer free lunches. But the National Parent Teacher Association is also opposing another facet of the bill it says could affect parents' participation in the program.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 passed last week in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill includes proposed rules for the school lunch and breakfast programs for low-income students in schools.

One provision would restrict the number of times that school officials could reach out to families to encourage them to sign up for the school meals program to twice a year, according to the National PTA.

"Limiting the amount of communication a school may have with families on any issue is detrimental to the school environment and student learning," states a May 17 letter by National PTA President Laura Bay and Executive Director Nathan Monell to House leaders.

"Parents and families have a right to know what school-based opportunities are provided to their child throughout the year, which includes opportunities to improve the health and nutrition of their child," the letter states.

The committee, however, shot down an attempt to remove that part of the bill, said Heidi May Wilson, a spokeswoman for National PTA, in an email to Education Week. Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from San Diego, Calif., offered an amendment to delete the provision, but it was defeated, Wilson said.

"Healthy students make better learners, and school meals are an opportunity for children to receive more than half of their daily nutrient needs," said Laura Bay, the National PTA president, in a statement to Education Week. "Ensuring children have access to nutritious foods in schools and that families are meaningfully involved is critical to their success."

PTA also is opposing other parts of the bill, including changes to nutritional standards that members say will make the food less healthy and the reduction in the number of schools that could offer full programs. Education Week's Rules for Engagement wrote about the details of last week's passage of the nutrition bill.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved a compromise bill with fewer major changes.

Read more about last week's vote on the child nutrition bill in the Associated Press.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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